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The kindness of strangers May 20, 2010 4:10 AM   Subscribe

This post is an example of why I am so proud to call myself a MeFite.

In case you missed it ... the level of concern, compassion and willingness to help total strangers in that thread is just amazing and beautiful.
posted by jbickers to MetaFilter-Related at 4:10 AM (1431 comments total) 276 users marked this as a favorite

Concur. But let's not forget to mention this as well: Fake, you're a Mensch. I salute you.
posted by DreamerFi at 4:28 AM on May 20, 2010 [25 favorites]


Amen.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:55 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Woah. Thanks for posting, I'd have missed this otherwise. I can't help with anything, but I'm hoping it all turns out ok.
posted by jonathanstrange at 5:07 AM on May 20, 2010


I posted this there, I'll post it here:

For future reference in situations exactly like this please contact the US State Department at jvisas at state dot gov. We (and by that I me my coworkers and I) will get this situatuation rectified imediately upon learning of such situations. We cannot take action to ensure that women like fake's friend here are not exploited unless we know about these situations!

This precisely is what I do for a living.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:09 AM on May 20, 2010 [86 favorites]


The willingness of folks to help really is great to see, though I'm glad no one was willing to go with the girls to the "interview." I hope Pollomacho (or someone) can help in time.
posted by amro at 5:50 AM on May 20, 2010


It was the first thread I checked when I got up a little while ago. Pretty amazing. And I hope everything turns out okay and his friends stay safe.
posted by rtha at 5:52 AM on May 20, 2010


Woah just about says it.
posted by Skorgu at 5:55 AM on May 20, 2010


Contrast the level of concern, compassion and willingness to help total strangers of some with the willingness of other people to enslave them into a life of rape and violence. Sometimes humanity is glorious; sometimes humanity is dreadful and pathetic.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:00 AM on May 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


So say we all.
posted by unliteral at 6:01 AM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Ugh, terrible. I hope it all works out OK.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:27 AM on May 20, 2010


Pollomacho: "This precisely is what I do for a living."

It's all very nice with concern and compassion, but having someone who actually knows what to do chime in with the 411 is kinda cool too.
posted by three blind mice at 6:30 AM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I understand that the OP said there are plenty of cultural/personal factors that make the women reluctant to consider the possibility of trafficking... but can anyone shed any more light on this?

If they're on the phone with a Human Trafficking agency who has evaluated their case and (presumably) indicated there is a good chance of this situation being dangerous, why do they still insist on going forward with the meeting?

(I hope I don't sound ignorant or judgemental; I am sincerely just trying to understanding the reasoning and hoping someone who knows more can enlighten me...)
posted by cranberrymonger at 6:35 AM on May 20, 2010


(I'm cringing because I know my post above sounds really ethnocentric... but I can't seem to come up with any ideas myself.)
posted by cranberrymonger at 6:36 AM on May 20, 2010


I didn't get how old the women were, but I did a lot of dangerous, stupid stuff when I was younger because I just knew I was smarter than everyone else and could game any system.

I am really, really hoping for a good outcome here.
posted by JoanArkham at 6:43 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


It sounds like they also spent a significant amount of time and money planning this. They're probably a little bit in denial.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:44 AM on May 20, 2010


cranberrymonger -- you're not alone. oinopaponton's theory is the only thing I can come up with. Perhaps it feels like a long way to come for nothing. But yes... fingers and toes crossed. It's really good to see that people could provide useful help and advice.
posted by nthdegx at 6:47 AM on May 20, 2010


Did you guys read the thread? embrangled lays out a couple of theories.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:49 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know about ethnocentric; I certainly can't think of any Russian-specific reasons not to consider the possibility of trafficking in this case. The only explanations I can come up with are a) that they were told about this and subtly pressured into it by someone they knew and trusted, making them reluctant to "let them down"; b) that they had significant enough loans and financial needs back home that they would take any job at all for money, and are simply misinformed about the nature of the "compensation"; c) the world of the "Russian mafia," while scary and dangerous, is simply less threatening to them than the world of American government and social-work institutions. If anything, I'd vote for (c); whether you can really call it a cultural factor or not is up for debate. If (c) is indeed the case, or is at least a major factor, you're almost certainly not going to be able to talk them out of anything. American trust in institutions is quite simply incomprehensible to most Russian people. (Incidentally, the suggestions to contact the Russian Embassy and Consulate in that thread would be hilarious if they weren't so sad. Of all the institutions that came up, these are undoubtedly the most useless.)

I'd also hold off on celebrating until we have evidence of a good outcome here. If there isn't one, I'd say this thread would be in rather poor taste.
posted by nasreddin at 6:52 AM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Thanks for that, (A)Ha(W)O. I missed that comment. Jesus.
posted by nthdegx at 6:57 AM on May 20, 2010


(Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates: Thanks for pointing that out, I didn't notice...

nasreddin: Thank-you for a, b, and c... they gave me lots to consider.
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:02 AM on May 20, 2010


Jesus, I hope that works out. Thanks for pointing this thread out.

Fake, good luck.
posted by Phire at 7:10 AM on May 20, 2010


I can't help it, and I know it's wrong, but I get exactly the same "A PLAN HAS COME TOGETHER" neck-hair-tingle from these types of threads as I do from well-crafted episodes of "The A-Team."

Which makes me feel a bit shitty, because these are real people and real stakes and not Mr. T shouting at somebody before turning a riding lawnmower into a cabbage cannon, but I can't help it. It is just so fucking awesome to see people pull together like this.
posted by Shepherd at 7:24 AM on May 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


Man, this MeTa led me to that thread, and I was expecting a happy ending. I really hope everything works out.
posted by alligatorman at 7:24 AM on May 20, 2010


Which makes me feel a bit shitty, because these are real people and real stakes and not Mr. T shouting at somebody before turning a riding lawnmower into a cabbage cannon, but I can't help it. It is just so fucking awesome to see people pull together like this.

Yeah, we should keep this all in perspective.

Bad outcome: the women go to the strip joint and Fake does not hear from them again.

Good outcome: the women don't go, they find some marginal employment elsewhere, their lives are still screwed up from being effed over by these criminals, and they struggle to put all of the pieces of their lives back together. We won't read about this scenario, we'll just assume that this is what happens when/if they decide not to go.

Non-realistic outcome: a NYT reporter and the NYPD are contacted and they agree to go with the women, the men are busted for human trafficking, sex slaves are freed, front page headlines tomorrow.

We can all keep our fingers crossed that the good outcome prevails - even then, these women face an uphill battle.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:29 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Non-realistic outcome: a NYT reporter and the NYPD are contacted and they agree to go with the women, the men are busted for human trafficking, sex slaves are freed, front page headlines tomorrow.

I kept reading the thread as if it was a Law & Order episode, where they're sitting around analyzing tape from Penn Station and come to the realization the women never made it to the train station when Ice T comes busting in with some files, "They never made it to the Lux Lounge, Pollomacho and the feds bagged the creeps running the place," and just at that moment you see the police leading mobsters through the station, cursing Ice T who only responds with a cool, "Only lounge you'll be running is the 10-15 on Rikers Island."
posted by geoff. at 7:39 AM on May 20, 2010 [34 favorites]


That Aloha company is all sorts of shady. I wish they were located in the US so that law enforcement could do something. It's horrifying to think about all the Russian kids (and their parents!) who've fallen for this crap just because they wanted to travel.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:42 AM on May 20, 2010


The worst part is the "Parents" section:

"Why is it necessary?
Because your child should develop.
Because your child should develop. Travel and accommodation in foreign countries has always been an integral part of the upbringing and education of any young man or woman, claiming to social success in society. It's like a kindergarten or a school, college or university. Of course, you can get by without it. Just then your daughter or son will earn less, live worse and justifications why they are worse than others. Many of us often say that someone was lucky to become successful and rich. Allow your child does not miss the chance.

PS: We are not talking, of course, about such obvious pluses of the program, as fluent English and an extra 6-8 thousand dollars in expenses."
posted by oinopaponton at 7:43 AM on May 20, 2010


Jesus.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:48 AM on May 20, 2010


I hope it all works out, and it's extremely heartening to see the outpouring of support from the community, but threads like that make me feel terrible in that I have no power to help the people involved.

I'm in the wrong state, I know little about the subject, I don't speak the language, but the urge to do something fires madly in my brain when I see this sort of thing.

In the end, all I can do is cross my fingers, hope for the best for everyone, and fight down the feelings of frustration at not being able to help.
posted by quin at 7:52 AM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


That thread is giving me an eye-twitch. I hope it works out, I contacted a lot of people I know in NYC and DC. I know fake almost IRL and know that he's a good egg. It's scary watching this stuff unfold nearly in realtime and realizing that the reason this sort of scam is so scammy is that it works to make the victims refuse assistance that might otherwise be useful or helpful to them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:26 AM on May 20, 2010 [11 favorites]


Could someone who understands the situation link to or explain why it's a human trafficking situation and not just a bad waitress job that rips off the travelers and sends them home disgruntled and broke? There are lots of operations like this in, say, Ireland, which bring Irish kids over to the US and make them work terrible jobs but they're just kinda ripoffs not slavery rings.

I don't understand how these things work in the US, though I take people's word for it that they exist.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:32 AM on May 20, 2010


There are lots of operations like this in, say, Ireland, which bring Irish kids over to the US and make them work terrible jobs but they're just kinda ripoffs not slavery rings.

Suffice to say, Potomac Avenue, that is the sort of program they are supposed to be on. This ain't that kind of program.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:44 AM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I also hope this isn't a situation where regardless of everyone's best efforts, something bad happens .

But regardless of the outcome (which we can never control), what impressed me about that thread is that people didn't give into despair or apathy, denial or just ignore what *could* (we'll probably never know for sure) be a horrible situation. People (from Fake on down the line) are doing what they can. That's pretty honorable.

I, for example, am sending good thoughts to everyone involved - fake, those girls, the people trying to help them, their families, etc. - because that's all I've got.
posted by anitanita at 8:49 AM on May 20, 2010


No clear line exists between slavery and terrible jobs/awful situations. Nobody will show up with a pair of shackles and a nametag reading "Simon Legree." They're too smart for that.

In some sense, one of the great tricks of this is that the slaves do not know they're slaves — they're people making the "best" choice based on the (false) knowledge give them, the (meager) resources they have, and their (fearful) gut. The victims are told they owe money, so of course they try to pay it off. The manipulation is astounding. Then there is the man to whom you are introduced and you must be "nice" to him. As a favor. To help out those who have helped you.

Just this one time.

Honest.
posted by adipocere at 8:53 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I hope and pray effing AskMe gets to the bottom of this and this effing trafficking syndicate gets effing busted up and that would make this whole site just that more effing cool and awesome.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:57 AM on May 20, 2010


oh man. I don't pray but I am praying now.
posted by desjardins at 8:57 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is it common in human trafficking situations to have victims roaming around unaccompanied in the foreign country at the early stages? I (naively, I guess) thought traffickers were pretty careful to keep them isolated up to the point where they have no clear way out, in case they wind up having a friend like fake.
posted by cmonkey at 8:57 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


As a non-Russian-speaking Texan who knows virtually nothing about human trafficking schemes, I am ill-equipped to help in any way except to wish for the best of all possible outcomes for these women, so I'm posting here instead of the AskMe thread.

Good on all of you who have offered any kind of assistance, and especially on Fake for trying to get help for his friend.
posted by owtytrof at 9:21 AM on May 20, 2010


Suffice to say, Potomac Avenue, that is the sort of program they are supposed to be on. This ain't that kind of program.
posted by Pollomacho


I know this must be rather obvious to you but could you (or someone with experience in these matters) point to the specifics of why this seems clearly one rather than the other? Is it because the contact has been flaky and the website for the lounge seems false? Are there other signs of trafficking I'm missing?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:22 AM on May 20, 2010


Pollomacho - I too want to hear the answers to Potomac Avenue's questions but for the love of everything please focus on getting something organized to meet these girls in NYC, and update us later when you're not busy with your job. I've seen Port Authority at 2am and if they get there, they are as good as gone.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:26 AM on May 20, 2010


There are lots of operations like this in, say, Ireland, which bring Irish kids over to the US and make them work terrible jobs but they're just kinda ripoffs not slavery rings.

If you go through the thread and click on the links for the Lux Lounge, it's a sometime-strip joint, with soft-core ads, in Brighton Beach (a Russian mafia stronghold)--that they were asked to show up at, last minute after other jobs "fell through", at midnight, from Washington DC. This has so many red flags it's a marching color guard.
posted by availablelight at 9:26 AM on May 20, 2010 [17 favorites]


Can't unclutch my head. Please please let this end well.
posted by saturnine at 9:27 AM on May 20, 2010


Potomac Avenue, I think that the language issue is a big one. Irish kids coming over to work at a resort or something might be treated like crap, but at least they speak native English. It sounds like Fake's friend speaks some English, but her friend doesn't.

Also, Brighton Beach is a center of Russian organized crime, so, there's that.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:29 AM on May 20, 2010


P.A.: Don't claim to be an expert, but relocating the women from one city to another is suspicious--because it means that the women are going from a city that they may have done some basic research about/ become familiar with to one that they've had less opportunity to get to know, or where they may have friends who can help them. The fact that the promised employment wasn't there (and isn't even located in the city of DC) is suspicious. And a job offer at a lounge at midnight is basically not something that I would think to be at all legitimate.
posted by _cave at 9:30 AM on May 20, 2010


I (naively, I guess) thought traffickers were pretty careful to keep them isolated up to the point where they have no clear way out, in case they wind up having a friend like fake.

I think the reality is much more depressing and what makes this so insidious is that the victims do not see themselves as victims. I have no doubt the men who are luring them to Lux Lounge are offering them a lot of money, pressuring them that this is their only chance and/or showering them with token gifts. They're definitely being coerced into doing and it would appear completely voluntary if we did not know the eventual outcome.

They'll probably be given free accommodations and be making a lot of money as legitimate hostesses (as legitimate as you can get at a Russian strip club at least). They'll be encouraged to spend the money on frivolous things so as not to build up a savings, then you know, sometimes the nights are long and they're tired, so here's a little blow, and then after a couple of weeks the blow isn't so free, but they can strip, and look how much the strippers make ... after working several weeks at a strip club suddenly it doesn't seem so demeaning. Then rent starts costing, but not a big deal because they can sleep with that big roller and make enough in one night that would usually take them a week to make, and so it goes.

There's a reason Pollomacho says he sees them weeks or months after they step off the bus, and not the very first night.
posted by geoff. at 9:33 AM on May 20, 2010 [18 favorites]


I am anxious as hell about this now. I know Pollomacho is doing actual work right now, so I don't really want to see him update, but does anyone else have any updates from him so that I will be slightly less anxious?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:44 AM on May 20, 2010


see the thread, i posted an update from fake.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:50 AM on May 20, 2010


This is a terrifying story. I have been sitting here refreshing this page and the question page all morning hoping for good news. I haven't been a victim of trafficking but have lived through abuse, and wouldn't wish it on the worst person in the world.

I love everyone who is helping.
posted by bewilderbeast at 9:55 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I haven't said anything in the thread because I have nothing useful to add, but man am I anxious. I really hope all turns out for the best. I would certainly rather have all the work of many Mefites be unnecessary, but it's an amazing thing to see.
posted by aclevername at 10:19 AM on May 20, 2010


The thing that's the most heartbreaking is that even if the good outcome happens and we manage to "save" these girls, what about the ones who don't have people like Fake in their lives, or the friends and families of victims who don't have a massive resource like Metafilter to turn to when things get desperate? ha
posted by Phire at 10:27 AM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


While the comparisons to TV and talk of how this is 'exciting' are understandable (I'm on the edge of my seat to hear a good conclusion to this), it's also kind of gross.

Much like how fake asked for people to not dive in with 'lecturing' about trafficking, I think the A-Team/Law & Order comparisons are gross. This is not sensational. This is not hyperbolic bad guy/good guy shit. This is someone's friend and former pupil who could be willingly tricked into walking into a very scary, dire situation. What if that was your friend at risk of being hurt, raped or killed? Would you welcome such comparisons?
posted by SassHat at 10:28 AM on May 20, 2010 [14 favorites]


PA, sorry to be vague, but there are details beyond what has been shared that would be inappropriate to post publicly. I can post some hypotheticals later when I have a chance.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:31 AM on May 20, 2010 [8 favorites]

the women don't go, they find some marginal employment elsewhere, their lives are still screwed up from being effed over by these criminals, and they struggle to put all of the pieces of their lives back together. We won't read about this scenario, we'll just assume that this is what happens when/if they decide not to go.
I'm not sure that is what will happen. They're here on J1 visas, which means that they're probably college students who were only planning to stay for the summer and then go back to school. I think the best case scenario, in which they extricate themselves fairly promptly, may not be that bad. At least, that's what I'm hoping.
posted by craichead at 10:35 AM on May 20, 2010


... and now bingo wants to go take a visit. This feels like one of those "let the professionals handle it" situations, unless those close to the story suggest otherwise.
posted by Think_Long at 10:38 AM on May 20, 2010


I just sent a tweet about this to Clay Shirky.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:38 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pollom: Thanks! I guess I'm just reacting to other stories I've heard about internet folks getting desperate messages from women in trouble that eventually turn into pleas for money (whether the girls are in trouble or not). It would be unfair to fake's story to guess that was happening here, but it's helpful to know from an expert as well that this is what it appears to be. I'm just an overly skeptical curmudgeon sometimes.

They'll probably be given free accommodations and be making a lot of money as legitimate hostesses (as legitimate as you can get at a Russian strip club at least). They'll be encouraged to spend the money on frivolous things so as not to build up a savings, then you know, sometimes the nights are long and they're tired, so here's a little blow, and then after a couple of weeks the blow isn't so free, but they can strip, and look how much the strippers make ... after working several weeks at a strip club suddenly it doesn't seem so demeaning. Then rent starts costing, but not a big deal because they can sleep with that big roller and make enough in one night that would usually take them a week to make, and so it goes.

This is very helpful, thanks. So it's not that they're literally slaves, just exploited and naive young women. In a lot of ways this is a lot scarier than the SVU horror stories because it's so close to being legal and so hard to explain to people before they're inside the situation. Good luck to all parties.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:40 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Probably goes without saying, but if we suspect the Russian mafia is involved in this, can a mod later please anony-mize fake's name and number to something... fake?
posted by CancerMan at 10:44 AM on May 20, 2010 [9 favorites]

So it's not that they're literally slaves, just exploited and naive young women.
Right. Or at least, they're not slaves at first. And by the time they find themselves really trapped, their resources are hugely diminished. They feel responsible for what's happened to them. They've done things that they fear might make authorities and their families unsympathetic to them or might even get them arrested if they seek out the police. They might even feel a sense of loyalty to the people who are exploiting them. SVU likes their stories really tidy. I think the reality of human trafficking is often a little messier. It's no less horrific, but it's not as tidy.
posted by craichead at 10:48 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


bingo, I know you have the best of intentions, but I don't think that a random, untrained mefite's opinion on whether the club exists and is legit will illuminate matters. Surely the Russian mafia knows how to operate a front business; how would you ever really know? Would you be able to live with yourself if you went there and said "Yep, looks OK to me!" and something horrific still happened?
posted by desjardins at 10:49 AM on May 20, 2010


Much like how fake asked for people to not dive in with 'lecturing' about trafficking, I think the A-Team/Law & Order comparisons are gross. This is not sensational. This is not hyperbolic bad guy/good guy shit. This is someone's friend and former pupil who could be willingly tricked into walking into a very scary, dire situation. What if that was your friend at risk of being hurt, raped or killed? Would you welcome such comparisons?

Begging your pardon, and I know your heart's in the right place, but I don't imagine anyone discussing this expects Snidely Whiplash (or Snidelovich Whiplashski, perhaps) to be waiting for these girls with a cadre of masked henchmen. The A-Team comparisons and whatnot are coming from a lot of people who are concerned about a situation which could turn out to to be incredibly shitty, and who are excited about the possibility that they might, as a group, be able to affect its outcome in some way. No, this isn't sensational, but the thought of being able to help is an exciting one.

We read every day, in the news and on this site, about terrible things happening to people who don't deserve it. A lot of the overeager response here comes from a place of feeling like there's something that can be done this time. I'd advise caution to anyone getting involved, of course, but on the other hand I feel like calling a person gross for using the wrong terms to describe the good thing they're doing is kind of offsides.

And honestly, if this were my friend and the people doing the comparisons were part of the same morass of souls who were tendering such wonderful aid and good will, they could compare the situation to fuckin' Densha Otoko if it buttered their bread. Wouldn't fade me none.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:51 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Shit. Fake's last update in that thread is fucking heartbreaking.
posted by maqsarian at 10:56 AM on May 20, 2010


How do we know this is scary mafia prostitution stuff and not just a crappy job?
posted by floam at 10:56 AM on May 20, 2010


maqsarian literally took the words right out of my comment box. I'm so sorry, fake.
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:57 AM on May 20, 2010


Brutal update from Fake.
posted by donnagirl at 10:57 AM on May 20, 2010


And I just want to throw this out there. From the point of view of the women involved, this has to be really creepy. They don't believe anything terrible is going on. So they're in the US with a work visa, they run into what I'm sure they see as slight sketchiness, and they call their one friend in America for help. Within a few hours, he's alerted the entire world, the Feds, and Ashton Kutcher. He's got absolute strangers meeting them at the bus stop. If it were me, I would be incredibly creeped out.
posted by craichead at 10:57 AM on May 20, 2010 [17 favorites]


I wrote and deleted a tweet directing NYC'ers to that thread; I thought better of encouraging the Twitterverse to meet two girls at a bus station. I wish there were something else I could do.
posted by desjardins at 10:57 AM on May 20, 2010


Feels silly to be tweeting at Ashton Kutcher, but it's the best I can do here in Boston. I wish I could do more.

So what happens if they continue to refuse help?
posted by giraffe at 10:57 AM on May 20, 2010


dammit, sorry, should have previewed. I'm really sorry, fake. I can't imagine how frustrated and helpless you must feel.
posted by donnagirl at 10:58 AM on May 20, 2010


floam, Pollomacho thinks it's real and he works in the field, so I trust his judgment.
posted by desjardins at 11:00 AM on May 20, 2010


floam, also see embrangled's comment.
posted by desjardins at 11:01 AM on May 20, 2010


Within a few hours, he's alerted the entire world, the Feds, and Ashton Kutcher. He's got absolute strangers meeting them at the bus stop. If it were me, I would be incredibly creeped out.

I would be, too, and I think it's way out of line for anyone who doesn't know these girls to go meet them in person and try to save them from themselves. Like Pollomacho said, "they are adults with free will."
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:02 AM on May 20, 2010


I concur with jessamyn's eye twitch, it's terrifying to see this (well, something anyway) happen in real-time and still not be able to do much.
posted by Skorgu at 11:02 AM on May 20, 2010


Within a few hours, he's alerted the entire world, the Feds, and Ashton Kutcher. He's got absolute strangers meeting them at the bus stop. If it were me, I would be incredibly creeped out.

I would be, too, and I think it's way out of line for anyone who doesn't know these girls to go meet them in person and try to save them from themselves. Like Pollomacho said, "they are adults with free will."


I do see that point (even though I have, in fairness, offered to meet them but I am not always a reasonable person). Without knowing anything else, though, when fake says "In a brutalizing about-face they assured him that everything is fine, that they feel safe" it makes me wonder if there HAS been some sort of threat to their families or loved ones and if that makes the attention even more frightening. I don't know any more about this situation either specifically or in general than anyone else here (and a good deal less than some people), but that does seem like a possibility.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:08 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Slavery is a very complex issue, Potomac Avenue. Being intentionally addicted to drugs then shown that the only way out is prostitution maybe isn't slavery, but a week or two after that, they'd probably stop seeing any money at all. If you are working, can't leave, see no money and are harming yourself at the orders of other people, just what would you call it?
posted by QIbHom at 11:10 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


it makes me wonder if there HAS been some sort of threat to their families or loved ones and if that makes the attention even more frightening.

Anything is possible but that seems like a crazy thing to assume just from the fact they're explicitly saying they feel safe. They were likely asked "do you feel safe?".
posted by floam at 11:11 AM on May 20, 2010


I'm wondering now about the Twitter strategies emerging in the Ask discussion. I gather the proper authorities know. There are volunteers on the ground waiting for go orders to help out directly. I'm unsure what the goal is in drawing further attention to that thread. If there's a single good reason to do it, I'll gladly shout from the rooftops.

I'm tempted to put a note in the Ask thread that this MeTa thread exists just to keep the chat out of there so the thread is super useful for fake. I think here is probably a better place for the Twitter strategising.
posted by nthdegx at 11:11 AM on May 20, 2010


This sucks. This sucks so bad. I wanna put my fist thru a wall.

Instead, I'm praying. And may God Almighty Himself guide Pollomacho and his coworkers exactly where they need to be and may they be able to do exactly what they need to do.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:12 AM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Dang! That thread hit me hard. I'm on Long Island. Close, but... I wish there were something I could do to help.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 11:13 AM on May 20, 2010


Of course you're right, craichead, and I feel silly for thinking that this needs more publicity. It sucks to realize that some problems can't be solved by having more eyes on them. Some problems are just problems.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:14 AM on May 20, 2010


At this point I'm not sure what to hope for, except maybe that Ashton Kutcher shows up at the bus station to meet them. I can't think of what else would help.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:17 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


it makes me wonder if there HAS been some sort of threat to their families or loved ones and if that makes the attention even more frightening.

Anything is possible but that seems like a crazy thing to assume just from the fact they're explicitly saying they feel safe. They were likely asked "do you feel safe?".


Yeah, I know you're probably right -- I wonder if there's just some part of me that's still hoping that there's a logical reason for this behavior because those kinds of threats would be horrific but at least they would make some sense to me. I really don't know what else to say. I hope somehow everything turns out alright and that, if not, that they do know that there are people who are willing to help.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:23 AM on May 20, 2010


I posted this in the thread, but it's been pointed out that metacommentary should go here instead, so I'll reiterate that the OP is a good person who has done a good thing, regardless of the outcome.
posted by KathrynT at 11:24 AM on May 20, 2010


If they are in violation of agency rules for employment and possibly in violation of visa terms, dealing with an unauthorized individual, perhaps ICE might step in at this point. For those of you who think they should be left to make their own "choices": the way human trafficking mostly works in the US is that women DO feel like it's their own choice...for the first few weeks, or months. Until it feels impossible to get out. These men are very, very good at what they do. If you've never been a (young) stranger in a strange land with a tentative grasp of the language, disoriented and thousands of miles away from home, with a big buy-in already, I wouldn't judge these women, or fake, too harshly. I cringe at the stupid, dangerous situations I stumbled into myself abroad and would have wanted someone to help me in a similar way.
posted by availablelight at 11:25 AM on May 20, 2010 [12 favorites]


The locales are different, and the article is dated (2006), but I found this SF Chronicle 4-part series called "Diary of a Sex Slave" enlightening. It describes one woman's journey from beginning to---in her case, liberated---end, including how she got involved in the first place.

Part 1
| Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
posted by juliplease at 11:27 AM on May 20, 2010 [47 favorites]


The thing that's the most heartbreaking is that even if the good outcome happens and we manage to "save" these girls, what about the ones who don't have people like Fake in their lives, or the friends and families of victims who don't have a massive resource like Metafilter to turn to when things get desperate?

Starfish
posted by edgeways at 11:28 AM on May 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


Within a few hours, he's alerted the entire world, the Feds, and Ashton Kutcher. He's got absolute strangers meeting them at the bus stop. If it were me, I would be incredibly creeped out.

I would be, too, and I think it's way out of line for anyone who doesn't know these girls to go meet them in person and try to save them from themselves. Like Pollomacho said, "they are adults with free will."

True, but still... I think it's pretty obvious they're being scammed. And I'd rather have them be a little creeped out and saved from a horrible fate. Not out of line.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 11:32 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Much like how fake asked for people to not dive in with 'lecturing' about trafficking, I think the A-Team/Law & Order comparisons are gross. This is not sensational. This is not hyperbolic bad guy/good guy shit. This is someone's friend and former pupil who could be willingly tricked into walking into a very scary, dire situation. What if that was your friend at risk of being hurt, raped or killed? Would you welcome such comparisons?

Very true, and as the person who introduced the A-Team analogy, I think I really understated how crap I feel about well, feeling that.

FWIW, I'd never -- ever -- have said that in the main thread, which is about the problem and how to solve it. Here in MetaTalk, though, I feel more free to talk about how threads on the rest of the site are affecting me.

And this is affecting me in a really bizarre way where I understand that this is the real world and real people and real consequences, and I know that I totally shouldn't be fucking excited by it, but at the same time a lifetime of TV narratives, and the detachment of seeing all this through a computer monitor, have created this perfect schism in my head where I have one head saying "you shit, this is awful" and another that keeps clicking the "refresh" button because I want to know what happens next.

I figured I couldn't be the only person who is (a) genuinely aware of the stakes and consequences here, (b) getting a thrill out of the exciting and dramatic way that people are resources are revealing themselves and pulling together, and (c) feeling really really bad about (b), and that this was fair comment and maybe a shared experience for other MeFites. It wasn't written to offend, and I think falls under the MeTa rubric of "this is how the site and its contents are affecting me."
posted by Shepherd at 11:34 AM on May 20, 2010 [14 favorites]


Is there any chance of finding someone who's experienced this - say, on a Russian-language travel site or something - who could talk to them?
posted by roll truck roll at 11:39 AM on May 20, 2010


Someone sent me this in-depth study of sex slaves, which, though it focuses on Eastern Europe, seems to have some relevance to this situation. Frontline.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:41 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ugh, that update. At least they know that if things get bad, fake (and a bunch of other people) are there for them. Fake, if you're reading this I hope you know you have gone well above and beyond what most folks would do.
posted by JoanArkham at 11:41 AM on May 20, 2010


Would you be able to live with yourself if you went there and said "Yep, looks OK to me!" and something horrific still happened?

Yes. We all know the girls in question are not checking in to see what I think.

I agree that the situation sounds shady, but I'm also troubled that the current group perception of what's happening is basically one big snowball of speculation.

Fate's update says: ...he did not know that lux lounge served alcohol or occasionally held stripping events. He also did not know about their accommodations being substandard.

Well, I'm not saying those things aren't true... but we also don't even know for sure that they are. I clicked on all the links; I did my own online searches for information about the club as well.

The crappy website, the context in which their "secret Saturday" events are advertised, and their lack of voicemail do not contradict any of this speculation. But it's also possible that the Lux is just a low-rent business with an under-construction website. I haven't seen any definitive evidence that they serve alcohol (although there is evidence that you only have to be 18 to get in), or that they are definitely a strip club, or even any direct evidence that they have strippers at all. And I'm not sure on what basis anyone can make a call on what the girls' accommodations will be like, should they continue to the point that they find out.

It's also worth considering that these girls may not be naive sheep with blinders on, but rather, adults who have a trove of experiences of their own, and their own capacity for judgement, and that, after crossing an ocean, they want to judge the next step for themselves, with their own eyes and ears. There seems to almost be a consensus here that, even in the context of all the warnings from Fate, they will inevitably fail in that regard, and that may not be true.
posted by bingo at 11:43 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine what's going on in these girls' heads right now. Trying, but can't.
posted by functionequalsform at 11:44 AM on May 20, 2010


This whole thing is uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. Fake gets massive good karma points for all he's done, and yay to all the other MeFites in the AskMe thread.

At a minimum, I hope K now understands there are resources to turn to when/if (when) things go sideways.
posted by ambrosia at 11:45 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pollomacho: if you're still reading please check your memail ASAP and get back to me.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:45 AM on May 20, 2010

And I'd rather have them be a little creeped out and saved from a horrible fate. Not out of line.
Sure, but at this point I'm a little worried that we're making them less likely, not more likely to get help or to look at their situation critically.

I'm not blaming Fake at all, fwiw. I'm not blaming any of us, including myself, because I think I actually introduced the concept of human trafficking into the thread in the first place. I'm just not sure what's the most effective way of dealing with this situation, given that it's actually a little more complicated than just telling the women what to do.
posted by craichead at 11:47 AM on May 20, 2010


Within a few hours, he's alerted . . . Ashton Kutcher.

In fake's defense, that was my idea. I don't know if it was a good idea or not, but it didn't seem like it could hurt and celebrities can undoubtedly get many things done for them more easily and quickly than the rest of us.
posted by amro at 11:48 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Craichead, I think all anyone can do now is sit back and hope that the information they've been given stays with them. If it resurfaces as a naggling suspicion during the "here's some free coke/ oops, it's not free any more but look at all the money you can make stripping!" phase, it might be enough to get them to pull the ripcord then. There's a big difference between "Hmm, this seems like it might be shady, but on the other hand, I CAN make a lot of money" and "Hmm, this seems like it might be shady, and also it is EXACTLY what my American friend said would happen."
posted by KathrynT at 11:52 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I too am worried sick, live far away and can be of no practical help, and am terribly disheartened by fake's latest update. The Russian mafia is well-established on the French Riviera too, and has similar problems of human trafficking (a lot from Romania and ex-Soviet bloc countries), and every so often there are stories about someone found executed in their home, jobs done terribly cleanly, and inevitably there are ties to that mafia that come up. So for the love of all that is holy, indeed, no one inexperienced go near that place in NYC.

As for cultural reasons behind the young ladies' choices, well, I had a pen pal in Novosibirsk for a while, back when Russia was the Soviet Union. And I lived in Helsinki for a couple years, where middle-class Russians (by then no longer the USSR) could afford to travel. Besides their Russian (I speak a very little and understand a bit more), you eventually learned to identify them by their immense smiles in shops, as if they'd never seen anything so wonderful; never experienced so much plenty. I asked a Russian woman what she thought of Finland once, and she nearly burst into tears, wishing she could find work to live there. "Get out of Russia, live in safety" is what she said many Russians desire.

The United States is even more so the land of luxury for them. I grew up in a pretty bad family, and yet the stories of poverty that my pen pal told me had me thankful for the roof that was over my head (my bedroom had no heating), the food we ate, the shoes on my feet and the occasional pair of jeans my parents bought me. If you're American, think Paris. Now imagine getting a visa to work in Paris and a job offer there. How psyched are you? And there's very little difference in quality of life between an American and a French person... now add that vast gulf in quality of life, plus the fact that, even for many Americans, NYC is a land of promise and self-advertises as such. Heck, I've had friends with Masters degrees from the UK who sold much of their belongings and threw caution to the winds to rent tiny rooms in cheap NYC neighborhoods for a couple months, just to be able to say they'd lived in New York. My French friends who've been to NYC on four-day guided bus tours still talk about it several years later, which is not something they do for any of their other vacations. And these are people who live on the French Riviera.

I'm hoping to [deity] that they're running on adrenaline and the crazy idea that their wildest dreams could come true (rising from hostessing to stardom, like musicians who work crappy jobs to play in NYC bars, hoping to hit it big), and that no threats have been made against their families... it goes without saying that I pray this ends well somehow.
posted by fraula at 11:53 AM on May 20, 2010 [13 favorites]


bingo: Essentially the worst that will happen if the theorizing wrong is that a big misunderstanding will cause these women some major and minor headaches and a lot of unwanted attention. The worst that will happen if the theorizing is right and this goes through, is obviously an insanely bad situation that they might never get out of or recover from. I sympathize with your point but think the risks of trying to help are insignificant compared to the alternatives.
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:54 AM on May 20, 2010


Let us not second guess the gestures somebody made to protect somebody else. As I said in the other thread, we can only hope that the scrutiny this has produced will make these young women unappealing targets.

If fake came off as creepy, well, so what. Let's not turn this into a referendum about what he might have done better or worse. He behaved with compassion in a circumstance that was new to him, and with great concern for the well-being of others; if we all did as well when the time comes, this world would be a greatly better place/
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:57 AM on May 20, 2010 [20 favorites]


If they're on the phone with a Human Trafficking agency who has evaluated their case and (presumably) indicated there is a good chance of this situation being dangerous, why do they still insist on going forward with the meeting?

Given some of the info in the thread, including the girls' own assurance that everything is fine and that Fake is the one causing problems, it seems likely to me that they or their families are being threatened, or that they're being promised more money with plausible-sounding assurances from their NYC contact.
posted by desuetude at 11:59 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Additionally, for those of you not familiar with his posting history, Fake spent significant time in Russia, so I would trust his judgement of the social/cultural dynamics involved, particularly since one of the women is a foreign student.
posted by availablelight at 12:00 PM on May 20, 2010


Christ. Fake's most recent update is soul-crushing.
posted by schmod at 12:02 PM on May 20, 2010


bingo - my point was not that your "all clear!" would convince the women one way or the other, but that it would give people who might help a false sense of security. If Pollomacho - who has direct experience in this area - is concerned enough to act, then it is not our place to investigate and suggest that everything's probably A-OK.
posted by desjardins at 12:03 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Copied from the other thread:

I think at this point that heroics are ill advised. There are several people in positions to take quick action monitoring the situation each step of the way from here out. The women know this and they know how to get in touch with any one of these people. They have been informed of why this seems to be a bad situation. Armed with what they know (more than anyone else), they have made the adult decision to go forward with their plans.

Additionally, I believe Astro Zombie is correct that now that a fuss has been raised, those that are would-be exploiters are well aware that these women are being monitored and contacted and they are now less likely to be targets.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:04 PM on May 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Thanks for the expert opinion on this and staying involved all the way through, Pollo.
posted by availablelight at 12:06 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


TPS: ...I think it's way out of line for anyone who doesn't know these girls to go meet them in person and try to save them from themselves. Like Pollomacho said, "they are adults with free will."

Attempting to talk to someone in person hardly insults their freedom to willfully place themselves in harm's way. The lack of acquaintance is a little weird, yes, but at a time like this, I would argue that disregard of social etiquette is entirely justifiable.
posted by zennie at 12:06 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, Pollo, thank you so much for your involvement and handling of this.
posted by jbickers at 12:07 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


like many of you i have been following this thread since yesterday hoping for the best. though things have not really worked out the way we hoped they would i would really like to commend everyone involved for their above and beyond efforts to help. fake, as another former teacher abroad i understand completely your wanting to protect your former student (the idea of this happening to any of my girls...!) and pollomacho, your professional calm and generosity with your time and expertise are astounding.

it is out of our hands and in the hands of these two young women. may they stay safe, may none of our worst fears be realized...
posted by raw sugar at 12:13 PM on May 20, 2010


These young women have been sold a bill of goods and until/unless someone can sell them a better (and 'better' here is entirely subjective to these young women who maybe think they are going to exciting, glamorous NYC (they've clearly never been to Coney Island/Brighton Beach)) bill of goods I can't imagine what might change their minds... I know in my early twenties I had a head of absolute granite.

I wish I could sell them that other bill of goods. (If someone could get them work in theater... tell them they will be acterss' - just buy two, three months during which they could see a little better the lay of the land... hopefully recognize that a store-front in Brighton Beach is quite likely a misery factory...)
posted by From Bklyn at 12:13 PM on May 20, 2010


bingo - my point was not that your "all clear!" would convince the women one way or the other, but that it would give people who might help a false sense of security. If Pollomacho - who has direct experience in this area - is concerned enough to act, then it is not our place to investigate and suggest that everything's probably A-OK.

No matter what I see, I won't be in a position to give an "all clear," especially since we don't even know for sure that the girls are still going to that club, or that it's even the club they meant, or that the person they're meeting is affiliated with it. In fact, even if I show up and find the building on fire, that doesn't mean that the whole arrangement wasn't completely on the level.

Honestly, the passions ignited here based on so little information are starting to remind me of the Kaycee thread, or the plot of Twelve Angry Men. I do not accept that this conversation can suffer from the addition of actual data points based in reality.
posted by bingo at 12:23 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Honestly, the passions ignited here based on so little information are starting to remind me of the Kaycee thread, or the plot of Twelve Angry Men.

That's a tremendously unfair comparison.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:27 PM on May 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


The links juliplease offers above -- the "Diary of a Sex Slave" article -- is very informative. It makes this whole thread and the other one all the more soul-crushing, however.
posted by Ms. Saint at 12:33 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


so little information

More information has been asked for, and given out (or sworn to exist), by those who seem to be experts in the subject. Perhaps you should read this thread more carefully and then decide whether it's worth it to get involved.

I am a skeptic of most internet rescue squad operations too but this effort seems both legit and helpful. Plus it stands as an educational resource for others who will run into similar issues in the future--which is more than I can say for your vague promises of investigation.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:34 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


so little information

More information has been asked for, and given out (or sworn to exist), by those who seem to be experts in the subject.


Yes. There was much behind the scenes action on this with an actual State Department employee who specializes in these issues, who has since weighed in with what he feels the right course of action should be at this point.

Let's not do this.
posted by availablelight at 12:41 PM on May 20, 2010


Hey, MacGuyver, just because people told you it'd be stupid to stakeout the Russian Mob with your cell phone cam doesn't mean it's all make believe. Grow up.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:45 PM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


In the main thread, Burhanistan mentioned making a donation to Shared Hope. It occurs to me that we could make a "For K" fund on Firstgiving or a similar site. Once he's home and rested, it could make fake happy to see some measurable good come out of this.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:50 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Those of us who are feeling powerless, touched, or angry - there is something you can do. Maybe not in this exact situation, but in the future.

The Human Trafficking Hotline that I linked to in the thread is looking for part-time operators in DC. They pay some. If I could commit to the training, I'd do it.

They also need a Korean translator in Jersey and donated undergarments.

The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) Online Hotline does regular volunteer trainings in NY and DC. I volunteer from my room after work and on weekends. It is heart-rending at times, but absolutely worth it. Training takes a weekend. It could not be more convenient. If you have any questions about the OHL, please feel free to memail me.

I can near guarantee your local rape crisis center is looking for advocates (who go to the hospital or court with survivors) and phone line volunteers. You can use RAINN (linked above) to find one near you. (And men - please don't hesitate to volunteer on the OHL or phone lines or your local RCC. Your presence is needed as well.)

You are capable, creative, and smart - and you can make a change. It's small, and slow, and frustrating to not be able to be SUPERWOMAN WHOOSH SWOOP IN FIX THINGS STOP BADDIES SAVE EVERYONE. But being able to be there where someone picks up the phone, or logs online, and they need help (whether it's talking to someone about how they feel suicidal, or telling someone for the first time that they were molested when they were ten, or that they need help leaving an abusive relationship) and they need someone, being that someone is worth a lot.

One candle, etc.
posted by quadrilaterals at 12:51 PM on May 20, 2010 [66 favorites]


To add on to quadrilateral, here's another great, small organization I've had dealings with in the past: Tahirih Justice Center
posted by Pollomacho at 1:07 PM on May 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


bingo, I am speaking as a complete outsider/observer to both these threads. Please take a step back and ask yourself why you feel so compelled to put in your two cents. Because your insistence on involving yourself (trying to round up a crew to conduct an investigation of the place) is utterly bizarre. Your continued insistence on putting forward your assessment of the situation is likewise.

We (you and I) don't know anything. There are people who are trained, experienced experts, who have the proper resources and connections to investigate and solve these problems, who have information that we don't know we don't know, working on this. They have determined that the danger is real. I am at a loss as to why you feel even remotely qualified to contradict them.

I know that it's not good to always blindly follow authority. However, this is a case where the potential for harm is high, where that harm may be irreparable and heartbreaking, where one must act quickly and perhaps with incomplete information to have any opportunity to prevent that harm, where the cost of acting is far less than the potential cost of "let's wait and see," and where we (you and I) simply don't have the knowledge to be constructively critical.

Let's shut the hell up and let these people do their jobs.
posted by keep it under cover at 1:07 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Honestly, the passions ignited here based on so little information are starting to remind me of the Kaycee thread

I would rather be completely wrong about any danger and have made an ass of myself trying to help than not do anything, whether or not things turn out to be made-up. Who cares if I look like an idiot? I would always, always rather believe I did the right thing even if it's some sort of weird internet hoax because that's what you DO and unless I'm actually getting scammed out of money or whatever I would always rather try to help, even if it turns out I'm getting worked up over nothing (which, in this case, would be the best scenario anyway).
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:08 PM on May 20, 2010 [13 favorites]


No clear line exists between slavery and terrible jobs/awful situations.

And not to be a pill on this topic, but this is pretty much not true, at least not from the outside. There is an extent to which societal underclasses in the United States [I don't have as much of a background in what goes on in other countries] do get stuck in a series of bad jobs and bad decision making that can make their lives seem bleak and horrible sometimes. And yet, there is still a bright line between that and being stuck in a sex trafficking situation. It may feel equally terrible, but one is legal and one is illegal. Granted, people in the underclasses often aren't aware of their legal rights or have a bad view of law enforcement generally, but this does not obviate the fact that these laws exist. This is sort of why people get really aggressive about shining lights on to these organizations, mking sure it's clear not just to MeFite-people but to people who might get stuck on the inside, this is not okay.

I think what adipocere meant was that from the inside, a really really awful job being a prostitute seems like just another really shitty job that you somehow got suckered into when in point of fact it's a completely different extralegal situation you're in, one in which you have recourse if people are made aware of what's happening.

When I watched the Frontline documentary, that was the part that was so poignant. The big problem wasn't shown as the slavery these-people-can't-leave-and-are-forced-to-have-sex issue (which was the horriblest part for me watching), the big problem was that they saw no way out, they believed the stories about "you still owe us money; you can't leave" etc which made their attempts to leave and cry for help more complicated and problematic. It's a real brainwashing situation, much more than I think your average person who sees a Frontline documentary and has no real-world experience with this sort of thing really can comprehend.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:20 PM on May 20, 2010 [14 favorites]


I've been in contact with fake over the past few hours, he's pretty beaten down over this.

To be clear, no action was taken to arrange anyone to meet them at the bus stop in NYC, based on what guidance we could muster in a very tight time frame. I had been working on the potential logistics for this to happen should it have been thought the best course, but it was called off. We can all criticize in hind-sight but fake had a lot coming at him from a lot of directions at once and was just trying to do the best he could with what he knew, and I was trying to support him as best I could logistically. Frankly if I were in his shoes I too would have been destroying a couple cell phones and my thumbs trying to figure out the best way to help (he did most if not all of his activity in that question from his phone as far as I can tell).

If there needs to be finger pointing here over what could have been done better please point them at me, not fake.

I'd like to make the point that there were a surprising amount of well-intentioned individuals who were ready to step up and do what they could on very short notice, even though in the end the best course was not doing anything at all. I've talked to a lot of people on the phone and over email, and a number of others have done the same. I thank all of those who were kind enough to devote some time and effort to trying to help fake's friends out.

fake, a lot of people are wishing a lot of good your way - get off the road and get some rest.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:23 PM on May 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


You guys, I am not planning a vigilante rescue operation. This club, if it even exists, is not out in the middle of nowhere. I'm just going to walk down the street and see if it's there, and if so, what it looks like. It's a couple blocks from a subway station. I'll do it after work, when it's still light out. If the place is even there, it will probably be closed. But maybe there will be signage or something.

keep it under cover: Please take a step back and ask yourself why you feel so compelled to put in your two cents.

Maybe you, and a lot of other people here, should step back and ask yourself why it's such a problem for you that someone wants to actually verify a specific part of the story. Are you really afraid that I'm going to endanger myself or others (by walking down a public street, which others are no doubt walking down right now)? Or are you afraid that, by adding a piece of actual information, I might dilute the central message here, which is that human trafficking is bad, and we all feel really bad about it?

This wasn't an FPP about the state of human trafficking. It was an AskMe about a specific situation. If you post to a popular website speculating about whether a friend of yours has gotten caught up in an international slavery conspiracy, and you mention a specific club in an easily-accessible part of one of the world's biggest cities, then someone gets to actually go there and find out if it exists. Sorry.
posted by bingo at 1:28 PM on May 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

And yet, there is still a bright line between that and being stuck in a sex trafficking situation.
My understanding is actually that there are a fair number of trafficked people in the U.S. who aren't involved in the sex trade. They're forced to work in domestic service, agriculture, sweatshops, and the like. What defines trafficking is the element of coercion. On the other hand, there are added burdens for people who have been subject to sex trafficking, because there's a lot of additional trauma and stigma involved in being forced into sex work.
Maybe you, and a lot of other people here, should step back and ask yourself why it's such a problem for you that someone wants to actually verify a specific part of the story.
I can't speak for anyone else, bingo, but for me the problem is that it makes me concerned for your safety. And while you're not my favorite mefite, I wouldn't want any harm to befall you. I'm also not sure what you think you're going to find that's going to clarify anything.
posted by craichead at 1:34 PM on May 20, 2010


I was thinking of driving to Denver instead of going through SLC to crash somewhere. My car will not survive the route, though, it is seriously overloaded and in tough shape. I will be driving through SLC on m way to Glendale. My phone and email are in the other thread if you are on the route.

I am grateful, thank you all.
posted by fake at 1:34 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


So, who wants to get started on the paperwork to officially license Pollomacho to Read As Much MetaFilter At Work As He Wants? We could get him a badge or a windbreaker with the order of the flaming pitchfork or something.

</blackhumor>
posted by stet at 1:37 PM on May 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


I can't speak for anyone else, bingo, but for me the problem is that it makes me concerned for your safety.

He's going to go to Brooklyn, and walk down the street past buildings, including the one mentioned in the thread. There is nothing inherently dangerous about this plan, beyond the normal dangers, such as being hit by a car. Look both ways, bingo!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:38 PM on May 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


Good luck fake; drive safe.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:38 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


bingo, I have no doubt the club exists, and I hope you'll be very careful, particularly if you're not familiar with the area. Brighton Beach after dark is nowhere to play hero detective.
posted by availablelight at 1:39 PM on May 20, 2010


I can't speak for anyone else, bingo, but for me the problem is that it makes me concerned for your safety.

This. The shady, possibly mob-involved, possibly human-trafficking dudes who run the place most likely already know that something's going strangely with the two girls they're expecting to show up tonight-- and now some stranger is staring at their storefront in the early evening? Unless you speak Russian (even if you do), it honestly could be kind of dangerous.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:40 PM on May 20, 2010

He's going to go to Brooklyn, and walk down the street past buildings, including the one mentioned in the thread. There is nothing inherently dangerous about this plan, beyond the normal dangers, such as being hit by a car.
You're probably right. But they may already have been visited by cops today because of this thread and be pissed off about that, whether they're involved in nefarious stuff or not. They may already be annoyed by the unwanted attention this discussion has generated. And Bingo and his posse may not be as subtle as he thinks they will be. And I still don't understand what he thinks he's going to find that's going to shed any light on the situation.
posted by craichead at 1:42 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


OK...emailed fake to see if he'd like a hotel room...he prefers not to have one because he has so much stuff in his car. He is looking for a backyard or a secure spot to go. Here is his note:

"Thanks. Must be brief bcz phone sucks (droid keyboard=weak). I will be going through salt lake city. Presently on i25 headed south, about to hit 220. Would prefer not to stay in a hotel because all my life is in my car, but a backyard or safe place along the way, if one can be located, would be most welcome. Prefer to drive for a while yet so I have time if car fails. I posted some location info to metatalk, you may also post this mess there or in ask. Saw offers but hard to read while driving."

Anyone in the vicinity with a little bit of room? Maybe we could figure it out here and send him a note to his gmail account? xxxxxx@gmail.
posted by zerobyproxy at 1:45 PM on May 20, 2010


All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. --Edmund Burke

Thanks to all those who are not doing nothing. I hope it helps.
posted by callmejay at 1:48 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm guessing, based on his comments, that bingo is looking for evidence that this is a legit business. However, detecting whether a business isn't legit can be VERY difficult to discern. For example, there was an awesome cheese shop in my hometown. It started as a little place, expanding to the place next door, and then changed locations in order to grow even more. They also had an amazing selection of cheeses (My mother and I were regular customers). One day it was closed by the police as it was discovered to be part of a coke smuggling ring. Still, it looked like a perfectly functional business in a small town for several years. If someone went and stood outside of the place, it would looked like and functioned as a cheese shop even though it was apparently a fron. No reason why this business wouldn't look legit either from the sidewalk. Doesn't mean it is though, especially considering the neighborhood.
posted by miss-lapin at 1:49 PM on May 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Just to clarify my mother and I regularly bought cheese from the store, which was apparently a front. Even knowing the college students who worked the counter, we had no idea.
posted by miss-lapin at 1:52 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I really, really wish fake would get his phone # and name removed from these threads - makes me nervous.
posted by tristeza at 1:52 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I still don't understand what he thinks he's going to find that's going to shed any light on the situation.

He won't find anything the various law enforcement agencies don't already know, and even if there was a giant neon sign out front saying "horrible people inside!" that information couldn't be transmitted to the two women that would need to see it.

It's just rubbernecking, gawking at the scene of the (possible) crime.
posted by anti social order at 1:53 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, for pete's sake, nothing's going to happen to bingo. I've been in Brighton Beach at night; I've even been there drunk off my ass. It's a big, brightly lit, noisy, lively Russian neighborhood. Pretty much all the clubs look sleazy, glitzy, or both if you're not used to Russian clubs. He'll walk by, see the place is there, and report back that it's there. This is one of the sillier derails I've seen around here.

*keeping fingers crossed for the women in question*
posted by languagehat at 1:53 PM on May 20, 2010 [22 favorites]


Far be it from me to tell you what the Russian Mob may or may not be up to, but I imagine they aren't going to come after fake on some sort of vendetta over these two women.

That said, for those looking to put him up for the night, his trip will take him through Casper, Rock Springs, SLC, St. George, and Vegas.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:54 PM on May 20, 2010


I deeply respect bingo's measured skepticism and go-see approach.

I thought for a long time before posting the name of the club.

And regarding creeping, I was in constant contactbtelling them exactly what I was doing and hope it mitigated any such feelings to the degree possible.
posted by fake at 1:56 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bingo-if you’re still set on going for whatever ridiculous reason (most fronts don’t have signs on them stating that they’re fronts-after all), please exercise caution. Don’t stop, don’t gawk, don’t point, and for the love of all that’s holy-don’t take any pictures to show us. Not even with your cell phone, not even while walking. It might be a good idea to make up a reason to be in the neighborhood first.

Yes, this is overly paranoid, but on the other hand, you’re poking at the Russian Mafia. And they’re probably already aware that at least one of the authorities is watching them.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:00 PM on May 20, 2010

He won't find anything the various law enforcement agencies don't already know, and even if there was a giant neon sign out front saying "horrible people inside!" that information couldn't be transmitted to the two women that would need to see it.
I think he's actually looking for the opposite. And it'd be nice if there was some sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval that certified that there were no enslaved Russian prostitutes at a given establishment, but sadly, no such thing exists. And even if it did, it wouldn't really clarify what was going on here, because who knows if they're actually going to end up working at the Lux Lounge. I don't think there's any way for us to know what's going on here. All that we know is that it all looks kind of sketchy in a way that's worrisome. But I don't think that the average mefite is going to be able to figure out whether our fears are justified or not.
posted by craichead at 2:01 PM on May 20, 2010


Oh, for pete's sake, nothing's going to happen to bingo. I've been in Brighton Beach at night; I've even been there drunk off my ass. It's a big, brightly lit, noisy, lively Russian neighborhood.

I smell a meetup opportunity!

Yes, this is overly paranoid, but on the other hand, you’re poking at the Russian Mafia

You do not know that! I'm with languagehat, some of you need to get out of the movie in your own minds, and start to listening to those of us who understand what little danger is posed by walking down the fucking street in NYC.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:05 PM on May 20, 2010 [20 favorites]


Fake - much support to you for all you've done and been through the last few days. I'd like to help at all if I can. You say the keyboard went out on your Droid. Doesn't surprise me. :( If you hate the on-screen keyboard that's built in, you might be interested in replacing it with the Swype keyboard. It's fast and easy to use and might get you back up and running with email and text communication. I know that you probably don't feel like messing around with your phone right now, but if you think it could help...it's an option. Here are the instructions for downloading and installing it. There are videos on the Swype link on how to use it (and it comes with a built-in tutorial), but if you need any more help with it you can memail me. Best wishes to you and your friend.
posted by bristolcat at 2:09 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


You do not know that! I'm with languagehat, some of you need to get out of the movie in your own minds, and start to listening to those of us who understand what little danger is posed by walking down the fucking street in NYC.

Bingo’s not talking about walking down a random street in Brighton Beach-he’s talking about surreptitiously casing a place that may or may not be owned by the mafia. There’s a pretty big difference there.

This isn’t about OOH SCARY NYC-I’ve lived near/above fronts before and haven’t been in any danger, but I also didn’t poke around too much. Again, the advice I gave was overly paranoid, and I realize that, but I’d rather he exercise caution than not.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:16 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bingo’s not talking about walking down a random street in Brighton Beach-he’s talking about surreptitiously casing a place that may or may not be owned by the mafia.
Forget about that. He's talking about surreptitiously casing a place in an immigrant neighborhood that's about to be investigated up the wazoo by the immigration authorities, all because of a tip from some non-Russian do-gooder. Let's assume this is all a big misunderstanding, and the people who own the Lux Lounge are just running an innocent bar/ part-time strip club. How do you think they're going to feel tonight about attention from nice, non-Russian do-gooders?

I doubt any harm would befall him. But it's a silly thing to do, with no reason to think there will be any payoff.
posted by craichead at 2:22 PM on May 20, 2010




So, who here is up for ponying up some bucks to help Fake get his car worked on? Sounds like it needs some attention. I'm game to start a Paypal fund for him, and make the first contribution to it.
posted by jbickers at 2:37 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interestingly, the miracle-grow myth of "bingo the naive explorer" isn't so different from the group extrapolation about inevitable fate of the naive Russian girls. In both cases, the hive mind is cast as philosopher-king, sitting back in a weathered leather armchair and smoking a pipe, petting a dachshund and shaking its bushy head sadly. And the people who Won't Listen To Reason are cast as sheltered children who are only persisting on their chosen paths because they don't know any better... what other reason could there possibly be? Ah, the arrogance of youth! Ah, the bravado of restless souls! Ah! Ah! Ah!

I smell a meetup opportunity!

That's a great idea. The next NYC meetup should definitely be in this neighborhood. I'll see if I can find a good location tonight.
posted by bingo at 2:41 PM on May 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


I posted this in the ask thread:

I am not sure that linking to the facebook or business webpage is such a good idea. What will they think when they start getting so much new traffic/interest about their venue? If they are legit it'll be no problem but...to suddenly get traffic from all over the planet at the same time? I'd skedaddle. Exit stage left...

Something to think about.
posted by futz at 2:49 PM on May 20, 2010


zerobyproxy, you have memail.
posted by -t at 2:52 PM on May 20, 2010


This was deleted from the original thread (which I thought was still on topic to help the OP), but on FB, an associate and/or relation of the owner of the venue has a 21st birthday party at the place tomorrow night and posted looking for go-go dancers.

And yet, even with a benefit of a doubt that it's "legit", somebody paid the $3K for them to come here, and will no doubt want their money paid back somehow. Aren't there enough unemployed waitresses/go-go dancers already here in NYC? Why import them unless there's something nefarious going on? It doesn't add up.
posted by yeti at 2:55 PM on May 20, 2010


Following up on iamabot's link: http://www.facebook.com/vladavakyants?v=wall#!/event.php?eid=123798080977409&ref=mf

They're hiring for a number of positions, starting today, if you don't want to load the link.
posted by artifarce at 2:59 PM on May 20, 2010


Sorry, jessamyn, I wasn't too clear at putting it into words: when you're inside what you can generically define as a Bad Situation, you may not also know it's an Illegal Situation or Something Someone Can Do Something About. From the outside, someone can say, "Oh, yeah, human trafficking. Sexual slavery. This looks like the opening act." It is a bright line, legally and in other aspects, from the outside. Inside, it would look different.

I'll draw an analogy to a parallel situation. You can be unhappy about, for instance, your parents abusing you without knowing that 1) this isn't normal and 2) someone outside your family can help you. And then, if you can come to understand these things, there's 3) the fear of having someone take everything away from you, if you think your parents going to jail (who will take care of me?).

You don't get the official slave collar or anything. That lack of a clear line (from the inside) is to the advantage of the exploiters and abusers, who present themselves, at least initially, as friends or guardians who are only protecting you from the big bad world and your own decisions. They do not present as villains. And for a long time, you believe that. By the time you don't believe that, you're already in deep. The sex part of it makes it more obvious, if you're an adult, but before that comes the bit where there's this great job you were going to have, only it fell through, and could you work here, instead, for just a few weeks?

"Only for a little while" is one of the more insidious phrases ever invented. That's the very slippery slope I fumblingly attempted to describe.
posted by adipocere at 2:59 PM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


See Fakes update.
posted by fyrebelley at 3:01 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

And yet, even with a benefit of a doubt that it's "legit", somebody paid the $3K for them to come here, and will no doubt want their money paid back somehow.
I think that they or their families paid the $3000 to the agency to come here as part of an established educational exchange program. I think the agency might get paid the $3000 to do the visa paperwork and find them a job. The agency they came through may be shady, but the J1 visa program is legit. It's a way for college students from other countries to come to the U.S. on short-term work visas, so they can practice their English and learn about American culture. It's a real thing.

I'm not sure, though, that you're allowed to use your J1 visa to get a job in the kind of nightclub that features go-go dancers.
posted by craichead at 3:02 PM on May 20, 2010


Sorry, scroll to the bottom. I don't know how to link directly to a comment.
posted by fyrebelley at 3:02 PM on May 20, 2010


And by the way, admins of a FB fan page can see page views. It's one of the options in a graph at the bottom of the insights page. But there won't be referrers.
posted by artifarce at 3:03 PM on May 20, 2010


bingo...

Maybe you, and a lot of other people here, should step back and ask yourself why it's such a problem for you that someone wants to actually verify a specific part of the story. Are you really afraid that I'm going to endanger myself or others (by walking down a public street, which others are no doubt walking down right now)? Or are you afraid that, by adding a piece of actual information, I might dilute the central message here, which is that human trafficking is bad, and we all feel really bad about it?

Verify? Actual information? What makes you think your opinion on the appearance of the exterior of a building is going to verify or inform anything? And if you just planned to walk on by casually as can be, why invite others to join you?

Assuming there would be no danger, just what do you think you'll accomplish by doing this? Maybe anti social order's got your number.
posted by keep it under cover at 3:03 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Link directly to Fake's update (links are wrapped around the times of the comments)
posted by xorry at 3:04 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow thank god
posted by Rumple at 3:08 PM on May 20, 2010


Oh my god. I have chills and goosebumps right now. I'm atheist, but THANK GOD.
posted by keep it under cover at 3:08 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


HOORAY! Wow I am so glad that this looks like it might not turn out as devastatingly terribly as it seemed like it would.

...maybe not the MOST cheerful of sentiments, but wow, so much better than it could have been.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:16 PM on May 20, 2010


Sweet mother of god, sometimes the internet works and it is GOOD.
posted by availablelight at 3:16 PM on May 20, 2010


So at some point, the information that Lux is a strip joint sunk in, and she (they) got scared?

(I am so thankful to all of you who either helped or tried or offered. . .)
posted by Danf at 3:17 PM on May 20, 2010


I'm totally happy.

The cynic in me is thinking that there still might be some coercion involved (ie K forced to text that all is ok), but the fact that reference was made to [mefi member] makes me lean heavily towards this being happy news.

Looking forward to a more final update, when we definitely know the women are in safe hands.
posted by CancerMan at 3:17 PM on May 20, 2010


I've been following both of these threads ever since they opened, and I must say: Whoever it was on here that managed to convince the girls, you are amazing.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 3:19 PM on May 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


I'm really glad to hear that this worked out.

Going to Club Lux for a drink to celebrate. Taking a date with me. I will post an update later.
posted by bingo at 3:19 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


fake needs a parade. tickertape, balloons, elephants, the works!
posted by Danf at 3:20 PM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Man, I am all verklemmt now. I was despairing of the internets a bit today, but not anymore.

[this is good]
posted by ambrosia at 3:21 PM on May 20, 2010


Going to Club Lux for a drink to celebrate.

You're going to give those guys your money?!
posted by Asparagirl at 3:25 PM on May 20, 2010 [18 favorites]


From the Ask thread:
A member of this site convinced them to meet her instead of the contact.

Can we get that person a medal? Seriously.
posted by rbellon at 3:26 PM on May 20, 2010 [15 favorites]


I am literally crying, so happy, so releived.
posted by tristeza at 3:26 PM on May 20, 2010


Good lord, that was a seriously intense thread to follow. I'm incredibly relieved it didn't have a tragic end, and I have an exceptional amount of respect and admiration for everyone who leapt in to help. I hope fake is doing okay and we get an update from whoever met up with the girls.

And bingo, I'm not worried about your safety, but are you sure this is a good idea?
posted by Diagonalize at 3:29 PM on May 20, 2010


I'm all choked up, and grateful that this finally looks to be moving in a positive direction. fake, I hope you sleep easy tonight, and anonymous mefite who's meeting K and her friend - you rock.
posted by EvaDestruction at 3:30 PM on May 20, 2010


From the Ask thread:
A member of this site convinced them to meet her instead of the contact.


Yeah, if that means what it sounds like, I'd like to start a petition to add "goddamned hero" to the XFN contact types.
posted by maqsarian at 3:31 PM on May 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


No trashtalking out there, bingo. . .this may not be over yet.
posted by Danf at 3:31 PM on May 20, 2010


Jesus. What a relief. I was seriously terrified for those young women. God am I glad there are good people in the world who are willing to go out of their way to help strangers.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:31 PM on May 20, 2010


That brought tears to my eyes.

And I can't help but hope the place gets raided. Tonight.
posted by ohyouknow at 3:33 PM on May 20, 2010


Oh thank god. You all are amazing people.
posted by giraffe at 3:33 PM on May 20, 2010


Thank fucking God.
posted by dinty_moore at 3:34 PM on May 20, 2010


Whew. That was quite the turn-around. Best AskMe of all time!
posted by ignignokt at 3:34 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy. Fucking. Shit.

*hugs faze*
posted by loquacious at 3:35 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


rbellon: "Can we get that person a medal? Seriously."

"I was a Russian Sex Trafficker Thwarting superstar!"

this website! these people! this... metafilter!
posted by boo_radley at 3:35 PM on May 20, 2010 [15 favorites]


Holy shit. Thank you, internet. ♥
posted by bewilderbeast at 3:35 PM on May 20, 2010


Thank god this had a happy ending.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 3:36 PM on May 20, 2010


Bloody hell, good job internet love machine!
posted by Skorgu at 3:36 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


BEST OF THE WEB
posted by heyho at 3:37 PM on May 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


Wow. The awesomeness of this is.....awesome. Fingers crossed that things work out.
posted by grapesaresour at 3:38 PM on May 20, 2010


I sincerely hope that the MeFi member introduces him/herself at the bus station as: Hi, I'm here from the internet.
posted by found missing at 3:39 PM on May 20, 2010 [40 favorites]


It occurs to me that these young women may be stranded or even in debt. If we find out they have additional needs, I would be happy to chip in to make sure they get home okay.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:40 PM on May 20, 2010 [15 favorites]


And now that the cops and Pollomacho and his crew at the State Department are on the case, maybe we'll even see some scummy sex slaver arrests a few months down the line...whee!
posted by Asparagirl at 3:40 PM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Seconding Astro Zombie. Please let us know if we can help.

I got all teary, too, but I passed it off as happy tears because the boyfriend was doing something stupid and cute just now. I ♥ you, Metafilter.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:41 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and once the dust settles on this and we're sure the two young ladies are safe, this might be a good candidate for a sidebarring.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:46 PM on May 20, 2010


I love you, Metafilter. And to the Mefi member going to meet them: you are a superhero. <3
posted by cmyk at 3:48 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


MeFi, I kiss you!
posted by Danf at 3:50 PM on May 20, 2010


Wow. Just. Wow.
posted by marxchivist at 3:51 PM on May 20, 2010


Holy moly, what a thread. Both of 'em.
posted by rtha at 3:52 PM on May 20, 2010


Can we please know who the Mefite is who convinced them?
posted by amro at 3:53 PM on May 20, 2010


I LOVE YOU GUYS.

Holy cow, this has been a roller-coaster for us; just imagine what it's been for fake, and what it's going to be for these two women.

Fake, be well, sleep soundly, and let us know if we can help you--or them--in any way in the coming days and weeks.
posted by tzikeh at 3:55 PM on May 20, 2010


I'm also a bit teary. Fake, you are an amazing friend. I am so glad that they are safe. So so so so so so glad. I'm going to go and lie face down on my porch for a while. Crikey.
posted by saturnine at 3:56 PM on May 20, 2010


Hard to say anything beyond wow, and whew, and wooo. But yeah, whoever the Mefite is who got through to them, my hat is way, way off to you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:56 PM on May 20, 2010


"I was a Russian Sex Trafficker Thwarting superstar!"

Here you go: http://www.cafepress.com/MFSuperstar

No markup added, just the base cafépress prices. Adding stock as you are reading this....
posted by QuakerMel at 3:57 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sounds as though this is heading toward a non-disastrous ending. Thank fuck.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 3:58 PM on May 20, 2010


So, tomorrow if anyone at work asks me what I did last night, I'll say: "I didn't do a thing, but a website where I regularly post links about comic books and toy soldiers saved a couple women from being victims of an international sex trafficking ring."

I'm not sure how I'm going to explain that.
posted by marxchivist at 4:00 PM on May 20, 2010 [51 favorites]


Hi, I'm here from the internet.

Better: "Hi, I'm from the internet and I'm here to help."

[this is good]
posted by holgate at 4:02 PM on May 20, 2010 [22 favorites]


This has been absolutely amazing to follow and for once I don't feel bad about slacking off at work to read Metafilter.
posted by kmz at 4:02 PM on May 20, 2010


What Astro Zombie says. I would love to help out with some money as needed.
posted by zinfandel at 4:02 PM on May 20, 2010


Fucking hell, Metafilter. I just want to give you all the mother of group hugs right now.

And hoping for fake to get some sleep in a safe place, too. And for an update from our intrepid member who met the girls at the station.
posted by jokeefe at 4:03 PM on May 20, 2010


I was following this most of today on both of the threads, but hadn't posted anything because I'm too physically far removed from DC/NYC or where Fake is to offer any help... I will say this though. I left work awhile ago fairly certain things where not going to go well, it all seemed to be spiraling down to where the ladies wanted to make their own decisions and not accept any help. I resigned myself to this, with the hope that they would be able to break free eventually, not too damaged.

Logging on at home I checked the update/s and now have a half goofy grin, my response was (of course) not nearly as physically and emotionally intense as Fake's, but I empathize, and can at least catch a small echo of that. Yeah, as everyone has noted they are not "out of the woods", but it seems they are now open to other possibilities and have at least the start of a safety net which makes all the difference.

What a saga.

To everyone who was in a position to help and offered, to the unnamed Mefite who made contact with the ladies and to Fake, I know this voice from the middle of America is of little importance to you, but fucking good job. You do the best you can do and sometimes it changes lives.

The sun is shining, the birds are singing (at least they are here), tell the people in your lives that matter most to you that you love them. A bit of evil was averted, and that is no small thing.

good job.
posted by edgeways at 4:04 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wet blanketing here, but I keep getting a bad feeling when I hear him say "They're safe, with one of us now." I have this irrational fear that it's a mefite imposter.

I read too much pulp.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:05 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd really like to donate to a fund to fix fake's car or help him out in some way, too. He's amazing.
posted by sarahnade at 4:05 PM on May 20, 2010


WONDERFUL!! thank god, thank god, so relieved.

oh, metafilter. is there anything you can't do? get people out of locked rooms, avert sex trafficking disaster...
posted by raw sugar at 4:09 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, I'm just feeling deep admiration for FAKE and all of those in assist.

It may be too soon, but; Hey FAKE, good luck with the book deal and send my love to Oprah!!!!1!!!

You're a prince, man.
posted by snsranch at 4:09 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


strangers on the internet: 1
evil fucktards: 0

*hoping those who are safe continue to stay safe*
posted by Wuggie Norple at 4:11 PM on May 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


*happy dance*

Woo Hoo!
posted by futz at 4:14 PM on May 20, 2010


Officially bawling. I, too, have been following this all day with bated breath. What a fantastic ending. Fake, you are a hero!
posted by chara at 4:19 PM on May 20, 2010


Wow, I know where I'm going to turn if I'm ever in serious need of help. I just told my girlfriend the same thing, just in case. First 911, then Metafilter! Seriously proud of this site. Hope everything continues to be okay for them.
posted by haveanicesummer at 4:19 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


HUZZAH! *throws hat in the air*

*ducks to avoid falling hat*

Nthing my willingness to contribute to a fund to help fake with car repairs and/or to help the girls with immediate expenses. (If fake's route was going to take him through Laramie into Ft. Collins via the 287, I was going to suggest that he stop at Vern's to fortify himself with cinnamon rolls, but beyond that I had nothin' but long-distance good wishes.)
posted by scody at 4:22 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Phew and Christ and fucking blimey. Love to fake and the amazing mystery greeter, good luck to the girls, and thank you Metafilter for being utterly fucking incredible.
posted by penguin pie at 4:24 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I sincerely hope that the MeFi member introduces him/herself at the bus station as: Hi, I'm here from the internet.

No, that's doing it all wrong! It should be "Hallo! I am droog of Matt"
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:24 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


It has been heartbreaking to follow this saga, but after that update, I'm sitting here with a smile and full of admiration for everyone who helped out, but especially Fake for toughing it out and being the best friend anyone could ever hope for. I hope you get to sleep in a safe place tonight.
posted by gemmy at 4:28 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fake is planning to crash at our place in Utah tonight just outside SLC, so I think we have that covered now, too!
posted by BlooPen at 4:48 PM on May 20, 2010 [45 favorites]


This has been the most heartbreaking thread to follow, and I cried at work with relief when I saw the beautiful ending. Just adding in that I'm also happy to help out with any needed funds as well.
posted by Zophi at 4:50 PM on May 20, 2010


I swore I wasn't going to look at this thread again, not after it became clear how bad the situation was for these girls. And now this. This is amazing.

Fake, and all those who stepped in to help, you're heroes.
posted by Catseye at 4:51 PM on May 20, 2010


Huge Respect to Fake for his determination and guts and willingness to turn for help, and his good heart. And to Pollomacho for what I suspect was a big background role, but even if not, for the work he does day in and day out. And to all the mefites who offered to help or did help and to mathowie and the mods for making a place which can save a life once in a while.

And yeah, if there was a way, I'd put that 10 bucks I'm going to have to spend on drinks now into a pot for these young woman to give them a hand up, or to fake to pay his cell phone bill!
posted by Rumple at 4:56 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been following this all day, but staying out of it because I had nothing helpful to contribute.

My faith in the goodness of Mefites has been vindicated once again.

Matt, I hereby nominate fake for an Official Metafilter Hero award.

Not that you all aren't heroes in my eyes, but damn, dude, while driving in the mountains in a crappy car and cellphone? I tip my hat.
posted by pjern at 4:58 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's a real brainwashing situation, much more than I think your average person who sees a Frontline documentary and has no real-world experience with this sort of thing really can comprehend.

You might get a sense of it from the film Lilya 4-Ever, though.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:00 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Making a donation to a human rights organization in honor of excellent news. For all the people right now captives of this kind of evil without the grace of so much immediate good looking out for them.
posted by hat at 5:00 PM on May 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


We have them safe and sound

if you know russian and live in NYC please call me

xxx-xxx-xxxx
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:02 PM on May 20, 2010 [91 favorites]


BlooPen, make sure you have some cold beer/refreshments. It's been a long day for the man.
posted by snsranch at 5:03 PM on May 20, 2010


We have them safe and sound

posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9


Heroically Eponysterical!
posted by scody at 5:04 PM on May 20, 2010 [15 favorites]


ifdssn9, you're a class act.
posted by decagon at 5:05 PM on May 20, 2010


ifds,sn9, you're awesome.
posted by CancerMan at 5:07 PM on May 20, 2010


Help request in aisle ask.me from a certain previously unnamed member.
posted by fake at 5:10 PM on May 20, 2010


so.... I do not want to ever hear another high user number vs. low user number rant again. period.
posted by edgeways at 5:11 PM on May 20, 2010 [15 favorites]


Actually, for each person reading this who is willing to pledge honestly that they'll make their own donation of money, time, or labor in the service of folks in bad situations, I will add on another approx. $5 to the amount I donate to a human rights organization. Send me a MeMail so I can keep a tally.
posted by hat at 5:11 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, suggestions welcome on where I should send the donation.
posted by hat at 5:12 PM on May 20, 2010


You are all legends. Kudos to fake for the obvious efforts, but also for staying amazingly calm and classy in the face of all sorts of pressure. Thanks to everyone who pitched in and helped. Every time I think I understand the term "community" Metafilter kicks things up a notch and redefines it.

Youse are all goods peoples.

also: extremely pleasingly eponyppropriate
posted by urban greeting at 5:12 PM on May 20, 2010


So. Um. Should we adopt a human trafficking prevention charity for a yearly MetaFilter charity fund drive? To avoid issues, everyone will donate themselves, but a handful of key popular MetaFilter commenters will spend a 24-hour period writing hilarious things in a random comment thread to encourage donations -- and perhaps some live streaming music from mefites.
posted by davejay at 5:15 PM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


If we're going to do some kind of group donation thing, let me again recommend Firstgiving. That way people can be anonymous if they want, but we can still get a running total.
posted by roll truck roll at 5:17 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Matt, can we get these kids a gold star please?
posted by anastasiav at 5:19 PM on May 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm not a musician, but a filk idea for those more talented: The Hero Of Mefi, the Man They Call Fake. And i-f-d-s-s-n-9 to the tune of Respect.
posted by kmz at 5:20 PM on May 20, 2010


If I learn that this has all been an advertisement for Arriva buses, I'm going to be so mad.
posted by found missing at 5:22 PM on May 20, 2010


Gods, I am so relieved to hear this update I just burst into tears.

bingo: "
Going to Club Lux for a drink to celebrate.
"
Make sure you eat before you go. Their menu is somewhat lacking.
posted by Heretic at 5:25 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


You guys rock.
posted by ddaavviidd at 5:36 PM on May 20, 2010


Another internet clinking of glasses here. I wish I were either out West or close enough to NYC to help throw an impromptu party.

I was having a terrible day today, and between following the Gulf news and this thread, the world seemed so endlessly bad -- then I saw the final updates.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:36 PM on May 20, 2010


After tonight a few on here are destined for the great sidebar in the sky.
posted by fire&wings at 5:38 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just wanted to say that I would happily contribute to a fund in aid of Fake's current car troubles, as per jbickers' suggestion, if that's something that Fake would be cool with.
posted by Hellgirl at 5:40 PM on May 20, 2010


Awwww, MeFi!
posted by oinopaponton at 5:41 PM on May 20, 2010


Crying again, but this time tears of joy....Thank you, God, and thank you, Metafilter!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:44 PM on May 20, 2010


There are not enough favorites in the entire MeFi archive for this.
posted by Shohn at 5:44 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


so.... I do not want to ever hear another high user number vs. low user number rant again. period.

Dammit, don't you hate it when an old member gets a new account with a high usernumber, so you don't realise they've been through a few incarnations here already?
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:46 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah fuck that shit.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 5:47 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait was ifds,sn9's first name?
posted by geoff. at 5:48 PM on May 20, 2010


Let's not do this here. ifds,sn9 is awesome, and that is that.
posted by Phire at 5:49 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Their menu is somewhat lacking."

I recommend the German marzipan fruitcake.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 5:51 PM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


I have reached out to a friend in Stamford who has a Russian wife (a wonderful story in itself). I'm not sure if they will call, but I have passed on the link and the phone number. Fingers crossed.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:52 PM on May 20, 2010


Also, fake: if you get to L.A. this weekend and you're in the mood for a meetup, please join us!
posted by scody at 6:06 PM on May 20, 2010


The cops found my username hilarious. They are going to be looking at the other thread. Explaining to them the weird way we're connected was crazy hard. They kinda thought I was a trafficker when they stopped us.

By the way, Joe and Wille, if you're reading this, you're the least subtle undercover cops EVER!

Anyone who wants to come have a drink with us, we're at the xxxxx Diner on xxxxxxx.


I kinda wish you didn't go visit the sketchy place where they were possibly going to be trafficked. Not even ironically. Okay?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:07 PM on May 20, 2010 [93 favorites]


this is amazing. ifds,sn9, you are so cool).

just brilliant. all of you. wow.

you know, i left this thread sometime in the afternoon and was watching the clock for 5 and i just knew that something good was going to come of this.

rejoice!
posted by lakersfan1222 at 6:09 PM on May 20, 2010


Wow. Waking up in Japan I was able to read the whole thread in one go, from worrying start to wonderful finish.

fake, ifdssn9, if either of you are ever in Tokyo, drinks are on me. Superlative job -- to you and everyone else who lent a hand.

This is MetaFilter at its best.
posted by armage at 6:11 PM on May 20, 2010


All right, so "goddamned hero" isn't going into XFN, so ifdssn9 and fake both get "muse". But I mean it to mean the other thing.
posted by maqsarian at 6:15 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


we're at the Venus Diner on 23rd street and 8th Ave.

You might not want to broadcast that far and wide. Matt or Jess or Cortex will delete if you want. Also, I note your phone number here. Again - given what you're dealing with/escaping from - I don't know that should be public knowledge.

And, by the way, you are SO cool)
posted by anastasiav at 6:17 PM on May 20, 2010


Metafilter: we fight crime

Followed all day; stuck in meetings & feeling useless. IFDSSN9, fake, Pollomaco, allkindsoftime, offerers of help and support, and senders of good thoughts, et al - you are best of the web (and humanity)
posted by pointystick at 6:20 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


When it was revealed at a NY-based mefite had met and helped the two women, I almost posted "I'd bet $10 it was ifds,sn9." I didn't, just in case the person's identity was being kept hidden on purpose and guessing would be bad. But now that we know, I can say: yep, ifds,sn9 is a stand-up individual.

And, I think I speak for all sane people when I say, the correct way to pronounce 'ifds,sn9' must be 'eye-eff-Deep-Space-Nine.
posted by Ms. Saint at 6:20 PM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: we fight crime

NEW T-SHIRTS PLZ
posted by scody at 6:22 PM on May 20, 2010 [20 favorites]


Wow, I've been so caught up in Not Nashville that I almost missed this. Amazing collaborative spirit in this place. Love, hugs, beers and a good night's sleep to all.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:22 PM on May 20, 2010


Wait was ifds,sn9's first name?

It's station, of course.

But to you, it's Detective internet fraud detective squad.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:23 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is nothing - We nearly stopped clanvidhorse working in a chip shop in largs once.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:24 PM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm confused, where did the cops come from?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:24 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


fake, internet fraud detective squad, Pollomacho, all the unsung heroes who helped out behind the scenes, you are all truly inspiring. We can honestly say that the world is a better place today because of you.

Now, BIG FAT GROUP HUG!!!
posted by keep it under cover at 6:27 PM on May 20, 2010


OH MY GOD

I suppose, on the whole, it is a good thing I was away from the site all day today, I would have been a complete nervous wreck. HUZZAH!
posted by mwhybark at 6:31 PM on May 20, 2010


Apparently from behind a newspaper and a fake mustache, Jessamyn, if ifds,sn9's noting their less-than-subtle undercover tactics...

But so what -- it all worked out and schmoopy for everyone!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:32 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just logged onto Mefi just NOW and read all of this.

MOTHER. OF. GOD.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:33 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is true beauty. Get some rest, everyone.
posted by zennie at 6:35 PM on May 20, 2010


The police station, but that's not important now.
posted by boo_radley at 6:39 PM on May 20, 2010 [27 favorites]


we're at the XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Probably paranoid, but seriously, this needs to be deleted post-haste.

But, this saga is why I love Metafilter.
posted by The Michael The at 6:43 PM on May 20, 2010


I think it's unlikely that anyone would come after the girls or ifdssn9 now, because to know where they are, the bad guys would have to read the thread, and it's clear that a bunch of people around the world know what's up and are in contact with everybody. And the cops are involved, apparently. I doubt it would be worth the trouble.

That's just speculation, obviously. I don't know how (possible) Russian mafia sex traffickers think, since, you know, IANARMST.
posted by maqsarian at 6:52 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sweet--a metafilter commission to buy beer. Is that renewable? Like, weekly?
Beer and snacks and clean sheets and and fluffy pillows and such are all ready to go (though it will be a few more hours before he gets here).
posted by BlooPen at 6:53 PM on May 20, 2010


Following both threads today was like a roller coaster but I have to say, things like this reaffirm my faith in humanity.

Cheers to fake and IFDSS#9, and to the community as a whole, which supported this effort the entire way.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 6:54 PM on May 20, 2010


This is what social media is truly about. It's about connecting and helping strangers, not friends. Facebook is garbage. Metafilter FTW!!!! Awesome, awesome job guys. And yeah, when did the cops get involved?
posted by jasondigitized at 6:56 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been following this all day, and all I can say is how happy I am to see that it's come to a good end.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:57 PM on May 20, 2010


*This* needs to be the pilot episode of AskMetaFilter: The TV Show.
posted by ellenaim at 6:57 PM on May 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


Naw, it's cool.

We're not there anymore, we're at our apartment.

Actually now they are making with the whiskey drinking and the walking with mefites fuq and defenestration. fuq is going to show them around tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I'm at home recovering and prepping for a job interview tomorrow at 9am and trying to figure out how we'll feed two extra people!

Oh yeah, and I am making with the whiskey drinkings.

Cheers, and thanks much to everyone who has offered help, I am glad this worked out.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:59 PM on May 20, 2010 [51 favorites]


Oh man, I was hitting refresh all last night on that AskMe page, and I was terribly busy and out of the range of WiFi all day but it was on my mind constantly, and when I got home just now and read all the new activity I was so freaking happy I knocked over a glass full of water and it shattered everywhere but SO WHAT THIS IS AWESOME
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:00 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The cops...well...

That is a long story involving Port Authority and this guy who called me and who sounded EXACTLY like the bald brother-in-law cop on Breaking Bad. But I am really sleepy and completely overdid things today already and have to call the cops to talk to them again. So another time, okay?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:01 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sure thing, just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:02 PM on May 20, 2010


goddamn, you can eat on me tomorrow. Do you have the paypal, ifds,sn9?
posted by boo_radley at 7:05 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


*This* needs to be the pilot episode of AskMetaFilter: The TV Show.

"Tune in next week to see if an average sixteen year old boy can be trained to defeat a grizzly bear with a knife! We'll then take a look at how best to dispose of a corpse..."
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:06 PM on May 20, 2010 [19 favorites]


That was pretty much the most amazing thing I've ever read on this site. Much pride to everyone that reached out and saved these young women.
posted by Bonzai at 7:07 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


ifdssn9, you should totally figure out a way to work this story into your job interview.

"Oh, by the way, the Community Service portion of my résumé's a bit out of date..."
posted by maqsarian at 7:08 PM on May 20, 2010 [27 favorites]


Both fake and internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 are marvellous human beings.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:08 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fake I take it you are moving to LA? Because I have an apartments worth of furniture free to you if you need it. I'm serious.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:10 PM on May 20, 2010 [11 favorites]


ifds,sn9 you deserve to drink the hell out of that whiskey. And for bonus points I hope you nail tomorrow's interview.
posted by shiny blue object at 7:10 PM on May 20, 2010


Metafilter: we fight crime

NEW T-SHIRTS PLZ

updated: just opened a new cafepress shop for no-markup goods pertaining to this thread. now instead of settling for the quote i pulled, you can send me artwork or a quote from one of today's two posts on the subject of thwarting sex trafficking, and tell me what cafepress product you'd like it to be on, and I'll make it happen. If including text, please tell me what MS Windows- or Office-supplied font you want, or link me to a free downloadable .ttf. http://www.cafepress.com/MFSuperstar
posted by QuakerMel at 7:11 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yea, another time, looking forward to reading about it!
posted by snsranch at 7:11 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


*asavage drops several slots on list of coolest MeFites*
posted by lukemeister at 7:11 PM on May 20, 2010


I've been keeping up with this all day, but staying out of the way because anything I would have said earlier would have been noise. Amazing work, here, and I hope those girls make it home safe & sound.

...trying to figure out how we'll feed two extra people!

This is the last thing you should be worrying about - paypal or what, people?
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:12 PM on May 20, 2010


Oops, was so weepy I posted this in the original thread, even after Jessamyn said to move it on over:

I am so happy I'm literally crying. I would still love to see them and just give some hugs. IFDS, let us NYers know if you/they need anything. Like, even hugs and beer. xoxo.

(Also, I just got a picture of fuq and the girls. And a giant jug o' whiskey. That's what got me cryin'.)
posted by functionequalsform at 7:14 PM on May 20, 2010


This has to rank as one of the most incredible "real-time" problem-solving (and community building) uses of AskMe. Kudos to all who assisted!
posted by ericb at 7:15 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


i am so happy this turned out the way it did! you guys are incredible, and i am so grateful to be part of this community.

fake and ifds, sn9 and all other helpers: thank you so much for being good people.
posted by gursky at 7:16 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Meanwhile, I'm at home recovering and prepping for a job interview tomorrow at 9am and trying to figure out how we'll feed two extra people!
I'm pretty sure that you could take them to Per Se with the money that people here would be delighted to pitch in.

Seriously: I know they deliver food in New York, because Alexa Whatserface mentioned her $30 pasta in that dumb article someone posted here. You could set up a paypal account, or if that's too much of a pain in the ass, I'm good for dinner tomorrow. MeMail me where I should call and give my credit card number.
posted by craichead at 7:17 PM on May 20, 2010


Wow. Congratulations, bravo, and stay safe.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:22 PM on May 20, 2010


Whew. What a relief! I'm so glad that the situation is looking hopeful for them now. That was terrifying.
posted by umbú at 7:31 PM on May 20, 2010


Unbelievable. Amazing. Wow. Thank you everyone for being such wonderful humans. Metafilter blows me away all the time. And this just tops it all!
posted by Vaike at 7:32 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, what a story. So glad it has a happy resolution (so far) - I hope Pollomacho et al will be able to tell us what happened behind the scenes, once it's safe for everyone to talk.

ifdsss9, you absolutely must tell this story at your job interview tomorrow. If they don't hire you for sheer mensch-ness, they're dumber than a box of rocks.

Well done, MeFites!
posted by Quietgal at 7:37 PM on May 20, 2010


oh my god. i'm so glad this has all worked out well.

nevermind givewell and locked rooms. that right there is the best mefi thread ever, as far as i know.

i am totally going to go donate some money in a good direction in honor of all this and for the people who don't have the benefit of fake having their back.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:38 PM on May 20, 2010


Okay, I just emailed the police and jessamyn, cortex, and mathowie (sorry other mods I don't remember who you are). They need information from the threads involved. I guess they'll ask you what they need.

The cops funded some diner food so we're good for tonight. My paypal is xxxx@gmail.com; maybe we can feed them and subsidize a trip up the Empire State building. They were amazed to be in Times Square and it totally made my day when we saw about 20 nuns in full habits, wandering around Port Authority.

I have copied a few of the moderators of metafilter so they can give you any other information you need.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:38 PM on May 20, 2010 [31 favorites]


Oops, that was supposed to go in that email.

I love you and want to give you hugs, there were so many people involved in this that it's crazy.

OK hugs goodnight.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:40 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


btw, this whole story totally belongs on the sideblog.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:42 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow.
posted by Damn That Television at 7:42 PM on May 20, 2010


NEW T-SHIRTS PLZ
updated: just opened a new cafepress shop for no-markup goods pertaining to this thread.


Um. I'm really really sorry to be the one to say this, but ew.

I've been following the whole story, and I'm so, so happy that the girls didn't land at that club, as I think it was pretty obviously going to turn into coerced stripping/prostitution, and I want to hug fake and others...but I can't be the only person who thinks that triumphant t-shirts are in stunningly poor taste.
posted by desuetude at 7:43 PM on May 20, 2010 [34 favorites]


trying to figure out how we'll feed two extra people

Get whatever you want at Fresh Direct and Zabar's and tell us where to sign up with the credit cards. Hell, I'll deliver it myself!
posted by aquafortis at 7:45 PM on May 20, 2010


wow
posted by chinston at 7:49 PM on May 20, 2010


paypal is xxxx@gmail.com; maybe we can feed them and subsidize a trip up the Empire State building.

Done. I'd also like to make a donation to an organization that works to prevent human trafficking. Can someone recommend a good one, please?
posted by zinfandel at 7:54 PM on May 20, 2010


food monies sent.
posted by boo_radley at 7:57 PM on May 20, 2010


Bingo is apparently at Lux, either that or he's taking this joke really far.
posted by geoff. at 7:57 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've been offline for a few hours and the last time I checked the thread things were looking pretty dire.

Damn. I am tearing up a little. I'm so proud of you guys.
posted by tangerine at 7:58 PM on May 20, 2010


I ♥ MetaFilter.
posted by deborah at 8:00 PM on May 20, 2010


Fake I take it you are moving to LA? Because I have an apartments worth of furniture free to you if you need it. I'm serious.

Fake: I can vouch for the fact that he's serious, you should take him up on it if you have the space and need some stuff. You might even be doing him a favor. And you damn well fucking earned it.
posted by loquacious at 8:00 PM on May 20, 2010



Also, Contacts Pony Request: An hero.
posted by loquacious at 8:00 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thank you, internet fraud detective squad, station number 9, fuq and defenestration!
posted by brujita at 8:01 PM on May 20, 2010


Pingers sent to internet fraud detective squad, station number 9, who can use them anyway she likes.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:01 PM on May 20, 2010


I'd also like to make a donation to an organization that works to prevent human trafficking. Can someone recommend a good one, please?

zinfandel: Polaris Project has been mentioned by several people in these threads as a good place.

They have a good rating on Charity Navigator
posted by edgeways at 8:06 PM on May 20, 2010


Good job Fake, ifds,sn9, fuq, defenestration! and everyone else that took part. It was an awesome effort and a great result.
posted by lampshade at 8:07 PM on May 20, 2010


Chipped in for food / whatever.

This thread is amazing. Fake, Pollomacho, ifds,sn9, and everyone else who helped out - you are wonderful exemplars of humanity.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:07 PM on May 20, 2010


Also, Contacts Pony Request: An hero.

Um...
posted by maqsarian at 8:09 PM on May 20, 2010


Paypal sent to ifdssn9. I wish I could send more...you are all Big Damn Heroes in my book. Fake, if you drop your pay pal here, I'd love to send you some cash just for being so freaking awesome. This whole thread is so going to be my illustration of the power of the net from now on.
posted by griffey at 8:11 PM on May 20, 2010


what are "pingers"
posted by boo_radley at 8:13 PM on May 20, 2010


> what are "pingers"

I suppose he meant #5, but that could be an errant assumption.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:15 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


what are "pingers"

Taters that go "ping".

Or: $20, same as in town.

It's an injokestravaganza!
posted by maqsarian at 8:21 PM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hi everyone.

I've been lurking for I don't know how many years. Many times, I've been on the verge of registering, but always stopped at the thought that there's always someone expressing what I'd like to express, and doing so more eloquently than I could.

This, though. I watched this unfold during a quiet day at work. This, it seemed like adding my voice to the chorus was maybe not so pointless. Amazing, amazing work. The internet is, indeed, serious business.
posted by neuromodulator at 8:25 PM on May 20, 2010 [38 favorites]


Wow, I'm so happy this ended up working out...seriously, amazing.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:27 PM on May 20, 2010


Oh, and: literal viking. Obviously.
posted by neuromodulator at 8:28 PM on May 20, 2010 [29 favorites]


Hooray for inadvertent posting of paypal email address! I donated to the Tahirih Justice Center per Pollomacho and have sent some $ to ifds,sn9 and now I feel like I, too, helped a teeny bit today. Hugs!
posted by sudama at 8:29 PM on May 20, 2010


tater monies sent to ifdssn9.
posted by mwhybark at 8:29 PM on May 20, 2010


what are "pingers"

A perfectly cromulent word where I come from. Sometimes I forget tha resta you fullas talk funny, aye.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:34 PM on May 20, 2010


Things like this make me proud to be a member of this community.
posted by Alterscape at 8:34 PM on May 20, 2010


monies sent for food and whiskey--enjoy
posted by found missing at 8:37 PM on May 20, 2010


The cops actually got involved tthis morning with the help of KF, who was pivotal along with pollomacho. While Pollo worked the federal angle with speed and grace, KF connected me with Polaris and got the ball rolling ith NYC police and higher-ups. His continuous contact throughout the day was absolutely essential. I mentioned nothing online so that all parties could operate without interference. At the last minute, the cops and. IFDS#9 connected thanks to KF. Had she not gotten involved, they had another plan in place.
posted by fake at 8:38 PM on May 20, 2010 [14 favorites]


Awe-inspiring stuff all round, and especially from fake, pollomacho & ifdsss9.

And If I've been throwing around only jokey comments, it's just because tearing up at work when I'm flat out helping with system integration testing might make people think I'm taking my job a bit too seriously.

Now I'm on a lunch break, so I can blame it on the wasabi ;) <>

Best of luck to the Russian girls, and let's hope this turns into the bright start in the US that they were hoping for.

posted by UbuRoivas at 8:39 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


stupid html
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:42 PM on May 20, 2010


Wow. Just wow.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 8:43 PM on May 20, 2010


I am compiling a list of MeFites for whom I will be buying a drink when I see them at a meetup.

I am running out of paper.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:43 PM on May 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


For people offering to help me, thanks, but give me half a day or so to straighten out before trying to make any kind of decision. The fact that K and S are safe, fed, and drunked is already too much for me to handle ATM. Having a hard time keeping composure and staying on the road, much less accepting (still more) gifts.

Also, my respect to allkindsoftime for his work behind the scenes... and much love. to everyone.
posted by fake at 8:47 PM on May 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


Ye gods. I'm just getting caught up - missed the unfolding story - and my oh my. Nice work, everyone.

On sex trafficking: this article from the New Yorker was unforgettable to me. Yes, it also focuses on Eastern Europe, but the transnational nature of these crime groups would lead me to think it's not that different here. (The NYer has been doing a great job covering international crime by Eastern European and Russian groups lately, by the way).

On the "is it slavery or just a bad job?" question, there's a dimension of violence and force that hasn't been touched on, too. The article gives some examples: beatings, forced abortions, rape.

We don't really know for sure how criminal the club was; but there is active Russian organized crime in the entire region, even in podunk little restaurants and bars in New Jersey, let alone strip clubs in the most densely Russian neighborhoods in NYC. Though some expressed skepticism and a desire to avoid a rush to judgement, this is an incident that quacks like a duck and walks like a duck. It is almost impossibly unlikely that it was aboveboard:
Posing as employment and travel agencies, criminal gangs promise women jobs as waitresses and barmaids overseas, but then treat them as slaves, forcing them to work as prostitutes to pay off thousand-dollar debts for their travel. Victims, typically aged between 16 and 35, are often raped and beaten, have their passports confiscated and are threatened with harm to themselves and their families if they try to break their "contracts" or seek help. (Christina Ling, "Rights Activists Rap Ex-Soviet States on Sex-Trade" Reuters, 6 November 1997)
Glad you all managed to intercept this close-to-home incidence of a global human rights problem. Well done.
posted by Miko at 8:50 PM on May 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


Safe home, fake, and sleep well when you get there.
posted by Kinbote at 8:55 PM on May 20, 2010


OK, now I've spoused allkindsoftime, too. Who is KF? And who else, besides fake, pollomacho and #9 needs spousing?
posted by QuakerMel at 8:55 PM on May 20, 2010


Fake reports of human sex trafficking, solved by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9.

There must a good tagline in there somewhere.
posted by sophist at 8:56 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Today MetaFilter really demonstrated the "Community" in "Community Weblog." Well done, you guys.

Five hours later and I'm *still* verklemmt, dammit.
posted by ambrosia at 8:56 PM on May 20, 2010


We need to write a summary of what happened, huh?
posted by k8t at 9:02 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. I've never been prouder to be a member here than I am now. Just amazing. And it's really comforting to see that there are still good people in the world.

It's especially rare these days to find such a great group of people online. I've told a few real-life friends about the incident, and their first question is "this is real? they didn't just make it up?"

I think I'm going to start participating here a lot more...you guys are amazing, all of you.

Also, it's hard for me to browse the site right now....everything else seems so....insignificant compared to what happened here today.
posted by DMan at 9:02 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


When the dust settles, I'd love a narrative from the main players (IFDS, especially) as to what exactly happened, minute-by-minute. I imagine there is a lot that is not in the threads!
posted by Mid at 9:02 PM on May 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


Huzzah!!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:04 PM on May 20, 2010


We just got BoingBoing'd: Metafilter users save two Russian girls from sex traffickers
posted by griphus at 9:08 PM on May 20, 2010


Take two.
posted by griphus at 9:09 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey guys! We're on boing boing!
posted by dinty_moore at 9:10 PM on May 20, 2010


So, I'm pretty sure the both the original ask thread and this one could use the "metafilterhistory" tag.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 9:10 PM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Well, I'm not looking forward to the commenting on that BB item.
posted by desuetude at 9:12 PM on May 20, 2010


I, too, am very proud of the community we have here, and the good things it enables us to do. I hope you'll come meet up this weekend, Fake?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:13 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also: Hi, I'm Russian, from Brooklyn and have spent a fair amount of time on Brighton. The extent of danger that bingo put himself in was not being let into the club. Bright isn't exactly pleasant but it's not a fucking "stronghold" for anyone who isn't in the mob.
posted by griphus at 9:13 PM on May 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


ifdsss9, you absolutely must tell this story at your job interview tomorrow. If they don't hire you for sheer mensch-ness, they're dumber than a box of rocks.

I've been interviewing people for the last couple of weeks, and I can honestly say, if any single candidate had come in explaining that the reason they looked a little sleepy was that they had been busy the night before saving women from modern slavery, I'd have chuckled. If they then showed me the thread detailing the whole event, I'd have hired them on the spot.

Because that's the kind of go-getter you want in today's modern office!
posted by quin at 9:13 PM on May 20, 2010 [14 favorites]


Just finished hanging out with fraud detective (kathrineg), fuq (Joe), and K and S. We drank a bit of whiskey, walked to the water, and bullshitted for a while. They were both extremely warm and interesting and most importantly, safe. Now I assume they're getting some well earned sleep.

fake, you rule. kathrineg, you rule.
posted by defenestration at 9:16 PM on May 20, 2010 [14 favorites]


Seriously. Yes, I will you hire, you are a goddam superhero.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:16 PM on May 20, 2010




This is one of the most amazing things that I've ever seen on AskMe. Sending food money to ifdssn9 now.
posted by bedhead at 9:19 PM on May 20, 2010


I have been following this breathlessly all day and am greatly pleased to have a small way to help. I have money in Paypal that I don't even know how to get out, so I sent it your way, ifds.
posted by Lame_username at 9:21 PM on May 20, 2010


eatin'/drinkin' funds sent. Keep us posted in this thread as things develop, in case you and K&S need anything else.
posted by LMGM at 9:21 PM on May 20, 2010


> I think this calls for some Mariah:

Aw, come on. Let's go with something more jazzy.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:24 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


> I think this calls for some Mariah:

Aw, come on. Let's go with something more jazzy.


[Enrique whisper] let me be your hero [/Enrique whisper]
posted by sallybrown at 9:29 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn, I love this place. This is just...astounding.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:31 PM on May 20, 2010


A couple of admissions to the Empire State Building sent. Enjoy!
posted by scody at 9:34 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've added a small drop onto the pile as well, I'm so relieved and happy at the outcome.
posted by pjern at 9:39 PM on May 20, 2010


To fake and internet fraud detective squad, station number 9:

спасибо

(spasibo)
posted by Danf at 9:42 PM on May 20, 2010


yeah, I'm in for a little food $ as well. Nothing like spontaneous collective action
posted by edgeways at 9:45 PM on May 20, 2010


Oh, and if you need some translating done, memail/hit me up on Twitter. I'm not fantastic, but I am a native speaker.
posted by griphus at 9:47 PM on May 20, 2010


Awesome! <3
posted by cavalier at 9:47 PM on May 20, 2010


Quite a few charities/non-profits have been mentioned across the two threads, both as sources of aid and as potential recipients for donations. I've collected them here:

Tahiri Justice Center: "The Tahirih Justice Center works to protect immigrant women and girls seeking justice in the United States from gender-based violence. Leveraging both in-house and pro bono attorneys, we empower our clients to achieve justice and equality through holistic direct legal services and national public policy advocacy."

Polaris Project: "Polaris Project's comprehensive approach to combating human trafficking includes conducting direct outreach and victim identification, providing social services and transitional housing to victims, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) serving as the central national hotline on human trafficking, advocating for stronger state and Federal anti-trafficking legislation, and engaging community members in local and national grassroots efforts."

RAINN: "The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network is the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization. RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE and the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline at rainn.org, and publicizes the hotline's free, confidential services; educates the public about sexual assault; and leads national efforts to prevent sexual assault, improve services to victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice."

Traveler's Aid: "Mission: To advance and support a network of human service provider organizations committed to assisting individuals and families who are in transition, or crisis, and are disconnected from their support systems."

Shared Hope: "For over a decade, Shared Hope International has served the world's most destitute. We work diligently across the world, partnering with local groups to help women and children enslaved in the sex trade by providing them with shelter, healthcare, education and vocational training opportunities. Our three-pronged strategy—prevent, rescue and restore—is producing hope. We will not give up. We will continue going into the darkness, rescuing and restoring young women and precious children—one life at a time."

Ayuda: Ayuda's mission is to protect the rights of low-income immigrants in the DC metropolitan area. We are the District’s leading source of multi-lingual legal and social assistance for low-income immigrants in the areas of immigration, human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault. Our overall goal is to improve the ability of our clients to live safe, violence-free lives and become fully participating members of our community.

Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst: Since 1927, the Marks JCH has been the hub of activity for millions of people. Throughout the year, programs and services are offered for young and old alike...and we don't forget about everyone in between! Our highly trained professional staff works together to create activities and services designed with you in mind. From fitness programs to preschool and summer camp, to special services for seniors, teens and immigrants, we work hard to provide each and every individual with a high quality and meaningful experience. Our aim is to be responsive to your needs, to help you in every way we can. But most of all, we hope that you will see the Marks JCH as a place to have fun and unwind. People have come to rely on the Marks JCH in many ways. We're proud of that!

Russian Community Life Center: Over 300,000 Russian Jews, as well as other Russian-speaking people, have immigrated to Brooklyn since the late 1980s. The Russian Community Life Center (RCLC) was established in 1996 to teach English and Bible classes and to host other events that present the Gospel. Today, the RCLC offers many English/Bible classes, computer, citizenship, sewing and Hebrew classes. RCLC desires to provide a wider range of programs, each saturated with the Biblical message. The vision is to help immigrants realize their true identity in Jesus, and also to empower them to integrate successfully in America while maintaining their unique cultural identity.
posted by onalark at 9:49 PM on May 20, 2010 [36 favorites]


Sweet crud, this is an amazing thread.
posted by WCityMike at 9:50 PM on May 20, 2010


Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst

I live and have lived most of my life down the block from this place. I went to summer camp there, took swimming lessons, etc. It's a great resource for Russian immigrants in the community, Jewish or not. They're helping my stepfather out with his naturalization process as we speak. I can personally vouch for it.
posted by griphus at 9:54 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sent some comfort food with with a side of vodka.
posted by Rumple at 9:55 PM on May 20, 2010


I need to get a Metafilter tattoo, or something. Because I am proud to be a member.

Just unbelievable.

High fives to all.
posted by bdave at 9:56 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cory just (?) boinged the askme thread.
posted by mwhybark at 9:58 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had to wipe away tears, reading fake's update. I spent all day trying not to remember what I'd read about trafficking in McMafia. Gods. This community's awesome.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:01 PM on May 20, 2010


*and most importantly, safe*

Also, names. Oops. If that's private, can you edit it down to the first letters, mods? Saw that kathrineg tweeted them, but forgot that her feed is locked.
posted by defenestration at 10:03 PM on May 20, 2010


really cool to see what the internet can do in the hands of good, compassionate people. kudos all around.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:05 PM on May 20, 2010


Good work people!
posted by LarryC at 10:05 PM on May 20, 2010


Well, now I have a story to tell at lunch tomorrow to my boss and coworker who think that the internet is just a big time-waster. :)

Good job, everyone.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:07 PM on May 20, 2010


*reads BoingBoing for the first time in a while; has apparently gone through another redesign*

Wait, Salon dropped Tom The Dancing Bug and BoingBoing picked it up? That is really bizarre somehow.

Oh yeah and congrats you guys. I'd feel like I was part of it somehow, but I was dicking around in a thread trying to help a guy decide between BSG and the X-Files.

Look, we all are very important in our own ways!
posted by furiousthought at 10:15 PM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I just got back from Cafe Lux. I was there, with a ladyfriend, from about 10pm to about midnight.

It's a nice, clean, fairly upscale place in a safe neighborhood. It seems to be popular with 20-something Russian kids.

It is absolutely not a strip club.
It is absolutely not a brothel.

I'm not going to enter the bottomless argument about whether or not I'm qualified to make those judgements. I am. I have been to more than my share of strip clubs. I have been to brothels. Around the country and around the world. I know what a bad neighborhood is, I know what a strip club is, I know what a brothel is. This was none of those things.

Now, let's tackle the implicit questions:

Q: Does this mean that the organization(s) that brought these girls over were necessarily on the level?
A: No.

Q: Does this mean that the person who wanted to meet these girls at Cafe Lux was, de facto, an honest person, with their best interests at heart?
A: No.

Q: Does this mean that human trafficking isn't a real issue that ought to be taken seriously?
A: No.

Q: Does this mean that these particular girls won't end up better off with DS#9 and whoever else takes care of them, than they would have if they had stayed their course?
A: No.

Q: Does this mean that, as I anticipated, there was a metric fuckload of naive, fearmongering, masturbatory, myopic bullshit happening in this and the other thread?
A: Why, thank you for asking. Yes, it absolutely does.

By the way, Cafe Lux has on staff a professional hookah expert. He came to our table and helped us choose a fruit flavor mix. He had a lot of great recommendations that we didn't have time to try tonight. I'm definitely going back.
posted by bingo at 10:17 PM on May 20, 2010 [22 favorites]


Excellent work, fake & internet squad doodly dah #9, and all the helpful participants in that askme thread! I am proud to be a member of such a community.
posted by not_on_display at 10:19 PM on May 20, 2010


Next time anyone tells you that strangers on the internet are creepy, or that people in NYC are rude and self-absorbed, showing them this should lodge their foot sufficiently far in their mouth.

Seriously, I can't imagine a better example of how people can just be incredibly awesome, on or off the internet. You are all incredible.

Sending some scratch to IFDSto help cover costs. Hopefully Fake will let us know if we can show our appreciation for his hard work as well.
posted by dantekgeek at 10:23 PM on May 20, 2010


Interesting development, bingo. We'll see how this all plays out.

Also, to the very few people who included me in their thanks above: I definitely don't deserve that. I showed up and had some good conversation and fun after everything was already settled. Sort of just helped cool things down, I guess. (Not that I wouldn't pitch in what I could in the future.)
posted by defenestration at 10:27 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]




Q: Does this mean that, as I anticipated, there was a metric fuckload of naive, fearmongering, masturbatory, myopic bullshit happening in this and the other thread?
A: Why, thank you for asking. Yes, it absolutely does.


Y'know, I was dismayed by the "no don't walk down the street, bingo!" comments and thought that they were a bit breathless.

But seriously, just because this club is an upscale club (currently) doesn't mean they don't/haven't hosted "adult entertainment," and doesn't mean that the girls weren't being set up to strip elsewhere.

There was some naive fearmongering going on, which was already obvious before you went out tonight, but I can't imagine what you hope to gain by being kinda dickish with an unsolicited Q & A about the awesome nightlife vibe of Lux. Well, I guess you earned your Brighton Beach hipster cred badge?
posted by desuetude at 10:39 PM on May 20, 2010 [32 favorites]


Hugs all around. Mefi rocks.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:42 PM on May 20, 2010


The thing about fronts for professional organized crime is that the front is indistinguishable from what it purports to be. That's what makes it a good front. Meanwhile, in the backrooms, the money is laundered, the plans are laid, the lives are ruined. I mean, WTF were you expecting Bingo - a bunch of Slavic gangsters with tommyguns and women in handcuffs?
posted by Rumple at 10:42 PM on May 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


It is absolutely not a strip club. It is absolutely not a brothel.

I'm not on a horse - but have you considered that you don't know the secret handshake, or that it's the shiny, happy front meeting room for a bait and switch?

Appearances can be highly deceiving. Both ways. Considering Pollomacho is someone who actually works in the field fighting this sort of thing and who called it as an obvious setup... I wouldn't be so quick to write anything off just because you had a nice time in a lounge. You weren't exactly there in the building for the same purposes.

Look up. Look down. I'm still not on a horse.
posted by loquacious at 10:44 PM on May 20, 2010 [20 favorites]


By the way, Cafe Lux has on staff a professional hookah expert.

heh.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:44 PM on May 20, 2010 [12 favorites]


Q: Does this mean that, as I anticipated, there was a metric fuckload of naive, fearmongering, masturbatory, myopic bullshit happening in this and the other thread?
A: Why, thank you for asking. Yes, it absolutely does.


Hey, thanks for helping everybody to not lose sight of the important stuff. You're a credit to humanity.
posted by chinston at 10:45 PM on May 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


I can't imagine what you hope to gain by being kinda dickish with an unsolicited Q & A about the awesome nightlife vibe of Lux.

Kinda?
posted by scody at 10:46 PM on May 20, 2010


Cheery to snarly already? Let's just have a nice chill and call it a thing. There may be further development in this, and it may even get picked up by news organizations. But, letting it ride for now seems a good thing.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:49 PM on May 20, 2010


I'm confused. Bingo went to Cafe Lux, but the place in question was the Lux Lounge. Maybe they're two different places?
posted by amyms at 10:50 PM on May 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


As fun as it is to argue the relative merits of bingo as a human being, can we not make this discussion all about him and his exceptional expertise on issues pertaining to strip clubs and brothels? Becuase I am 100% sure that there are better things to discuss here than "bingo: jerk or asshole?".

Thanks!
posted by craichead at 10:50 PM on May 20, 2010


What did the internet fraud lady say to these women that convinced them to trust her? Seemed like a sudden change of attitude. Given bingo's description, it's strange that the Russian women sent a text to fake saying "Lux Lounge is a strip bar"--were they taking IFDS's word for it, or did they found out through other sources?
posted by mullacc at 10:53 PM on May 20, 2010


I can't imagine what you hope to gain by being kinda dickish with an unsolicited Q & A about the awesome nightlife vibe of Lux.

Kinda?


[shrug] Residual schmoopy, what can I say?
posted by desuetude at 10:53 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


amyms: "I'm confused. Bingo went to Cafe Lux, but the place in question was the Lux Lounge. Maybe they're two different places?"

Probably just a slip of the keyboard.
posted by Gordafarin at 10:56 PM on May 20, 2010


Probably just a slip of the keyboard.

Ahh, okay.
posted by amyms at 11:00 PM on May 20, 2010


griphus: We just got BoingBoing'd: Metafilter users save two Russian girls from sex traffickers

We just got un-BoingBoing'd, apparently.
posted by WCityMike at 11:06 PM on May 20, 2010


Still seems curious that bingo would switch to calling it the Cafe Lux. Maybe there really are two different places, the Cafe being the "fairly upscale place/absolutely not a strip club" and the Lounge being the stripclub?
posted by amyms at 11:09 PM on May 20, 2010


> We just got un-BoingBoing'd, apparently.

Nah, it's still there if you go to the main page. All of their links to individual posts seem jacked up right now.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:11 PM on May 20, 2010


There's a status on the Openbook page that says the Lux Lounge in Brooklyn holds pole dancing contests... so I don't know if it's accurate to describe it as "absolutely not" a strip club.
posted by Gordafarin at 11:17 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know if it's accurate to describe it as "absolutely not" a strip club.

I was just quoting bingo's designation of "absolutely not a strip club" upthread. I have no stake in the outcome of the "absolutely not a strip club" vs. "yep, it's a strip club" issue, and I'm content to leave it to the experts to decide whether this was a trafficking situation vs. a big misunderstanding, but the discrepancies between "Cafe" and "Lounge" stood out for me.
posted by amyms at 11:25 PM on May 20, 2010


Well good for bingo, he got the opportunity to be a worthless, smug fucking prick in an otherwise nice story. Congratulations!
posted by dead cousin ted at 11:31 PM on May 20, 2010 [19 favorites]


> Well good for bingo, he got the opportunity to be a worthless....

That's a bit unfair even if he came off as a bit jerky. And, we don't really know if this is a nice story yet or not. What will make it a really nice story is if the police/ICE unravel an actual smuggling ring and some bad guys get put out of business because of this. Otherwise, we don't have certainty yet that the Russian girls were in fact headed for what it seems like they were headed for.

This seems to be taking on a life of its own on the internet, and it might be best to just chill out and let it get sorted out on the down low.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:39 PM on May 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's still there. The link in griphus's comment must be borked
posted by Some1 at 11:39 PM on May 20, 2010


And, regarding the apparent sketchiness or lack thereof of the Lux place, it's pretty silly to think that a mafia-type would have prospective workers meet him at his own place for their initial visit.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:44 PM on May 20, 2010


We just got un-BoingBoing'd, apparently.

That's how it goes on Boing Boing: sometimes things just cease to be wonderful, thn thy dsppr ltgthr.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:46 PM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Q: Does this mean that, as I anticipated, there was a metric fuckload of naive, fearmongering, masturbatory, myopic bullshit happening in this and the other thread?

Because a mafia front certainly wouldn't do it's best to hide that it's a mafia front.

Seriously, every other aspect of this story raised flags with everyone but you, including law enforcement and a worker for a service that deals specifically with this crap. But you know that it was just fear-mongering, because it seemed like a legit business when you visited? Who's being naive?
posted by dirigibleman at 11:49 PM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Bingo: the question of whether Lux is a halfway-classy bar or a seedy dive with a brothel out back is completely irrelevant. As I wrote in the other thread, the circumstances the girls found themselves in read like a too-perfect case study of known human trafficking practices.

They're young Russian women, one of whom speaks no English. They came to the US on a package trip organised through a shady operator. A promised job "fell through" at the last moment. Their main contact stopped answering their calls. They were then asked to go to another city and meet a man they don't know and who wasn't affiliated with their sponsor, in a bar, at midnight.

The point is, women get trafficked into the sex industry through a game of bait and switch. You are assuming that working as a hostess at Lux was the switch. People more familiar with the process of trafficking are arguing that the Lux job was the bait. Given the sorrounding circumstances, the switch would probably have been forced prostitution, in premises either hidden out back or at an entirely different location from the bar at which you spent your pleasant evening.

All that aside, I am so, so relieved to know that they are safe. A few $ for bagels and whatnot coming your way via Paypal, IFDS.
posted by embrangled at 11:56 PM on May 20, 2010 [43 favorites]


By the by, was it absolutely confirmed that the girls' contact wanted to meet them in Brooklyn? The fact that there was also a Lux Lounge in DC, on New York avenue, seems very easy to misinterpret. Even without a second language issue, the difference between "Lux on New York" and "Lux in New York" is small.
posted by Gordafarin at 12:20 AM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Nthing thanks to fake; internet fraud detective squad, station number 9; Pollomacho, and everyone who helped concretely in the AskMe thread.

Would also like to doff my cap to everyone that recognised that they could not assist, but refrained from commenting in the Ask thread so that a guy checking the page from a mobile phone while on the interstate could have a slightly slightly easier time of it.
posted by nthdegx at 12:27 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also, interesting comment from ifds,sn9 on the boingboing thread:

Hi there. I am the person who met them at Port Authority (along with two plainclothes cops, who didn't identify themselves)!

The story is long and complicated, but to clarify, they did not walk by the club themselves. They got off the bus a long, long time after 3:30pm, and by that point they had decided to party with me (woo!) instead of meeting the other guy.

William:

Thank you. We have been relying on the generosity of friends lately due to my recent surgery and a roommate's unexpected departure, so help with expenses is greatly appreciated.

Those friends have, without exception, are people I met via metafilter. It is a wonderful site with a wonderful community, and I am proud to be a part of it.

(The cops thought my username was very funny...)

posted by nthdegx at 12:39 AM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've been lurking for the past few years, but this coaxed me into posting again. There have been several occasions when I have tried to explain MeFi to people who aren't familiar with it. This is now going to be one of the threads I point to and say, "This. This is why it's different."

My hat is off to you all.
posted by Aster at 12:53 AM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Looks like there's a Fark thread about this that will post about 7:30 EST this morning.
posted by pjern at 12:53 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Watching this thread pan out from the other side of the world, Fake, IFDS,SN9, you two are legends and I'm so happy it worked out.
posted by ellieBOA at 1:19 AM on May 21, 2010


The idea that a regular guy on the opposite side of the continent could help friends avoid imminent danger using a cell phone and a website that obsesses about taters and beans is pure cinemascope awesomeness.

Thank you fake, thank you kathrineg, thank you Pollomacho and everyone from the AskMe thread who helped out.
posted by ooga_booga at 1:27 AM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


The time differences were east coast/west coast. 3:35 would have been five thirty five.
posted by fake at 1:38 AM on May 21, 2010


"At the last minute, the cops and. IFDS#9 connected thanks to KF. Had she not gotten involved, they had another plan in place."

No, KF was talking to me frequently and very helpful, but there was a missing link somewhere and the cops had NO idea who I was. Seriously. I saw them following us and assumed that they were cops, and thought that they knew who I was, but they didn't. They let us leave the bus station, hang out a little bit, walk around, and once it looked like we were going to get in a cab, they stopped us.

They flashed their badges, asked us for ID, and immediately separated me from K and S. They spoke with us separately for about an hour on the sidewalk outside of Port Authority. Then they came with us to my neighborhood. (Giving us a ride in a van, woo hoo!) They spoke with fuq and pulled my husband aside and spoke with him alone as well.

Right before they left, one of them told me "we know who you are, we know where you live. Do the right thing."

Eek!

So...it didn't actually go as planned. Don't get me wrong, the police involved were smooth, professional, polite, and competent. I am really glad that they're doing what they do. But they had no clue who I was and thought I was suspicious as hell.


"What did the internet fraud lady say to these women that convinced them to trust her? Seemed like a sudden change of attitude. Given bingo's description, it's strange that the Russian women sent a text to fake saying "Lux Lounge is a strip bar"--were they taking IFDS's word for it, or did they found out through other sources?"

Knowing what I do about 20-ish women who are in NYC for the first time (been there, drank that) my strategy was not to try to convince them of anything. Instead, I provided them a fun third alternative to Sketchy Boss and Nagging Dad-type (no offense, Fake, you were incredible throughout). I emphasized that I didn't care what they did, or who they met, I just wanted to hang with them and have fun and go out. Sheesh!

At this point I thought the plan was still to meet the trafficker at midnight, giving me a lot of time to talk to K and S. Then they told me they couldn't meet me for drinks until 9 or 10, after they met the trafficker. Oh, I said, that's your new boss? Shouldn't you change and put on makeup before meeting your new boss for the first time? They agreed and decided to meet me and go to my apartment before meeting him. So I changed into my best facsimile of fun-party-girl clothes instead of my it-hurts-to-move clothes*, put on some makeup, and headed to Port Authority.

I was at Port Authority for a while, fully expecting to perhpas encounter the trafficker(s) at the bus station itself. Or maybe K and S would get the chance to drop off their luggage at my place and then leave to meet him (and possibly tell him my address, where he would try to find them if they left). Unless I could somehow convince them not to go meet him.

I couldn't find the police who were supposed to be there. There is bad/no cell phone service at their bus arrival gate. I was going upstairs to the main terminal to check my phone, going back down to check the arrival gates K and S, going up to check my phone again...back and forth for about twenty minutes, because their bus was late. The plainclothes policemen who were waiting at the gate didn't have cell phone service either, which is probably why they didn't get a phone call alerting them to my presence.

Then K and S texted me and said they weren't going to meet the trafficker at all. And the rest is history.

Thanks to everyone for everything. It is incredible that I am a part of this community.



*I had surgery a week and a bit ago and everyone who has been helping me with that, my roommate moving out, and the combined financial fallout is from Metafilter. Or married to me. Because Metafilter is awesome. Specific people who have fed me food in the last few weeks are zoomorphic, Optimus Chyme, hermitosis, and shmegegge. I feel like I'm forgetting someone and if so sorry, please let me know the next time you're giving me a hug. Because I need some hugs.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:42 AM on May 21, 2010 [137 favorites]


It is incredible that I am a part of this community.

It's an incredible community, Mathowie's award is perfectly timed.
posted by ellieBOA at 2:13 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Indeed. I am a huge fan, and not just because you're all so devastatingly good-looking.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:16 AM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Just another long-time (like 2+ years) lurker popping in to say that I couldn't not be an official member of this community any longer. I signed up today to tell you all that you're awesome.
posted by ladybird at 2:26 AM on May 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


I sent some money your way too ifdss9. Hope it can be of help.
I was reading the other thread right from the beginning, and I'm delighted that it's come out well.
posted by knapah at 3:00 AM on May 21, 2010


Oh wow, awesome news. I went to bed last night (UK time) with this looking grim as all hell. You guys are fantastic.

Knowing what I do about 20-ish women who are in NYC for the first time (been there, drank that) my strategy was not to try to convince them of anything.

This...this is brilliant.
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:17 AM on May 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


I am late to the party, but wow. Well done everyone..
posted by TheOtherGuy at 3:33 AM on May 21, 2010


Wow. I missed these threads earlier. I am so glad that this all worked out well. And pretty damned glad to be part of Metafilter. You all rock.
posted by litlnemo at 3:57 AM on May 21, 2010


Holy Fucking Shit Metafilter. That's what happens when I don't check AskMe for a day.
posted by anagrama at 4:18 AM on May 21, 2010


fake, ifdssn9 et al, you've all created yourselves quite a sticky situation you realize? I mean you'll never be able to pay for a drink at a mefi meetup again. And you have only yourself to blame. Tsk.
posted by Skorgu at 4:19 AM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


Okay, now I'm interested in how the girls discovered that the place was a strip club and that their lives were in danger, if they never met with the trafficker and never went to Lux Lounge. I'm assuming the cops at PA told them of the situation and laid out the trouble they would soon find themselves in - is that accurate?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:26 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, the timing is wrong, they already knew it was a strip club by the time they got to Port Authority.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:31 AM on May 21, 2010


Sorry, I was just wondering when they realized it was a strip club, since they didn't seem to be believing fake and then all of a sudden they did. I think I must have just missed that part. I'll re-read the thread to put the pieces together.

I'm sure you are all completely wiped and tired - you should go back to bed! Oh, right, job interview...eesh. Good luck, obviously. I can't wait for the complete run-down of how this all went down when you finally get a chance to breathe, relax, and let it all sink in. What a wonderful story.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:37 AM on May 21, 2010


Just finished hanging out with fraud detective (kathrineg), fuq (Joe), and K and S. We drank a bit of whiskey, walked to the water, and bullshitted for a while. They were both extremely warm and interesting and most importantly, safe. Now I assume they're getting some well earned sleep.

Well eff - now you're just making me jealous that I can't be there to hang out with you guys, dammit! I am planning to call a meetup with all of you guys (and let's fly fake in!) the very next time I am in NYC so I can buy everyone who I was in contact with yesterday a drink. Yall know who you are, and yall is good peeps, particularly you KG.

I'd also like to thank a non-mefite that until yesterday I never had talked to in my life. Onalark linked above to the Russian Community Life Center. Leslie McMillan, the Executive Director of the center, got an unexpected call from me and a rushed version of the details and she was ready and preparing to head to Port Authority in less than an hours' notice to try to meet with the girls. Leslie, if you read this far, I want you to know I think you are awesome and I hope we can get to meet in person some day.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:41 AM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


While I'm still greatly relieved the way this turned out, I'm a little concerned that the widespread media on this event will cause people will go to AskMe to request mefite hunt down the drug dealer stalking their kid's school, convince their sister to leave her abusive husband or (worst case scenario) pose a copycat story.

I admit I tend to be on the paranoid side, but let's all be a little cautious out there. I agree there are some incredible resources here (*hat tip to Pollo*) but I'm hoping people don't go a little nuts wanting to be the next hero. Just be safe, okay?

*hugs for ifd,s#9 and all involved*
posted by Wuggie Norple at 4:48 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wearing my "Everyone Needs a Hug" shirt in honor of yesterday. I was hitting refresh at work and home the whole time.
posted by piratebowling at 4:56 AM on May 21, 2010


Wow. I checked these threads just now for the first time since leaving work last night, and burst into tears. Wow. I have no words.

internet fraud detective squad, station number 9, next time I am in NYC, which should be a couple of weeks, I will buy you multiple hero beers, if you will let me.
posted by teragram at 4:58 AM on May 21, 2010


LUX LOUNGE IS HIRING!!! ONE OF THE BEST LOUNGES IN BROOKLYN IS NOW HIRING: Dancers Shot girls Bartenders Bottle service girls Promoters Performers Show teams Photographer Videographer

Source page. Almost all ads in Russian for strippers and escorts.

Scroll down on this one:

Hi me and the other pornstars/strippers in my pics are having a Stripper/Escort party at a secret lounge near you on coney island ave


Where? Lux lounge, 1915 Coney Island Ave. Posted February, 2010.

Scroll down again:

You still coming to the Stripper/Escort event on Saturday?

Address? Lux Lounge. Date: March, 2010.

There are more, if you search MySpace.

But it was nice of Bingo to check out the place, as obviously he's a certified sex industry front inspector, and is in a position to determine, after having a drink, whether a place is being used as a front or not, and to then decide to make us feel like assholes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:05 AM on May 21, 2010 [113 favorites]


Amazing. A few $ for anything you need coming your way via Paypal, IFDS.
posted by jgreco at 5:06 AM on May 21, 2010


I've talked about MeFi frequently over these years to my partner, and she finally got an account yesterday. She paraphrase boiled down everything I told her about this most recent event, and MeFi in general, like this: "a community of thoughtful people." Yeah. MeFites don't always agree, but we are almost always thoughtful. Which is damn, damn, damn remarkable. Happy to know you all.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:15 AM on May 21, 2010 [13 favorites]


Amen.

FFS
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:22 AM on May 21, 2010


Good links, AZ. I don't think there's any doubt that that place is hella sketchy and possibly criminal (certainly there are at the least some nefarious folk who associate with the place who probably are). But I just re-read the thread and still couldn't understand this last bit - how did the girls finally put two and two together? They went from "hey fake leave us alone" to "thanks for saving our lives" really fast. Did somebody show them the links to the club? Did they drive to the place before meeting up at PA? After ifdssn9's last update, it seems like they didn't go to the club or talk to their contact, but I could be misreading that. Anyway, that's the only bit I can't figure out.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:25 AM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


But it was nice of Bingo to check out the place

Agreed. Not only for a bit of real-world context, but apparently also as a way of inadvertently alerting people to the way that places that look OK might actually be kinda dodgy.

Makes me wonder about that Turkish mens' chess club up the road. Funny, they play chess all day, and dreadlocked weirdos just walk in & out without ever staying long enough to play a game. What the fuck is up with that?
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:26 AM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Amen.

FFS


Obi, I'm begging you: please don't do this. Not here.
posted by shiu mai baby at 5:27 AM on May 21, 2010 [15 favorites]


Funny, they play chess all day, and dreadlocked weirdos just walk in & out without ever staying long enough to play a game.

Underground rocksteady. It's still dangerous enough to be illegal. Oh, the poor, the poor, the poor, the Israelite.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:30 AM on May 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


you guys are heroes.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:35 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fantastic story with a fantastic end. Simply amazing people around here.

AskMe: It's not just for "should I eat this 3-day-old, left out on the counter, slightly fuzzy breakfast?" anymore.
posted by owtytrof at 5:41 AM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


LUX LOUNGE IS HIRING!!! ONE OF THE BEST LOUNGES IN BROOKLYN IS NOW HIRING:

So after a restless night trying to reconcile how crappy I feel about getting a vicarious thrill through a real-world terrible and dangerous situation, now I feel terrible because I'm relieved that a bar may be a front for the sex trade.
posted by Shepherd at 5:44 AM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

But I just re-read the thread and still couldn't understand this last bit - how did the girls finally put two and two together? They went from "hey fake leave us alone" to "thanks for saving our lives" really fast. Did somebody show them the links to the club? Did they drive to the place before meeting up at PA?
I don't know about Greyhound, but the D.C. to NY Bolt buses have free wi-fi. My guess would be that another passenger let them use his or her computer or phone to google the place, and the Russian-language results alerted them to sketchiness.
posted by craichead at 5:45 AM on May 21, 2010


I think every single Metafilter user should by Fake a roll of tape so he could have the biggest damn wall-o-tape int he universe.

I love this damn place.
posted by bondcliff at 5:47 AM on May 21, 2010


Man, Bingo, taking that extra step to swipe at everyone trying to help kinda backfired, didn't it?
posted by Hiker at 5:54 AM on May 21, 2010


Could everybody lay off bingo already? I think the point has been made, this is turning into a pile-on in an otherwise very joyous thread. See that little note below your live preview.
posted by onalark at 6:13 AM on May 21, 2010 [15 favorites]


Yeah, aside from the crazy-ass "i've been in a bar & smoking hookahs" final point, the rest of bingo's comment was exactly the kind of independent investigation & critical thinking that would normally be applauded around here.

jebus, if internet fraud etc was outed as an internet fraudster, you'd all be showering bingo with praise for being the one person who actually bothered to check out some facts on the ground.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:22 AM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


What an amazing thing. IFDS, sent something to you, just to help out.
posted by xingcat at 6:26 AM on May 21, 2010


jebus, if internet fraud etc was outed as an internet fraudster, you'd all be showering bingo with praise for being the one person who actually bothered to check out some facts on the ground.

If Bingo had've stopped before this:

Q: Does this mean that, as I anticipated, there was a metric fuckload of naive, fearmongering, masturbatory, myopic bullshit happening in this and the other thread?
A: Why, thank you for asking. Yes, it absolutely does.


I would've flagged his comment as fantastic. Right or wrong, it shows character that he went to investigate, but he kind of lost the character points when he insulted all the other people who had a concern for strangers' well-being.
posted by Hiker at 6:27 AM on May 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


eh, i just assumed he'd had a few drinks.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:34 AM on May 21, 2010


Yeah, aside from the crazy-ass "i've been in a bar & smoking hookahs" final point, the rest of bingo's comment was exactly the kind of independent investigation & critical thinking that would normally be applauded around here.

I do appreciate the attempt to bring more data points into the discussion, although the tone was necessarily condescending and combative. That being said, were I to pick somebody to send to an on-site investigation, it woudn't be the one who couldn't be bothered to type "1915 Coney Island Ave." and "escort" into Google before going. Not everybody is going to know what to look forr. And it would be one thing to say "It didn't look like a brothel to me," although Bingo has given no sense of expertise as to what a brothel might look like. He definitively said "It's not a brothel," and then proceeded to use his untrained research skills to express contempt for the very people who have expressed concern in this thread.

So, no, I personally don't think his expedition added much to this conversation, and don't applaud it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:34 AM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


When I was a kid, there was a restaurant in town well known as being some kind of front for organized crime. The thing is, we went there all the time. The prices were good and the food excellent. Which basically just to say that, hey, mobsters need to eat and drink too, and many of them really enjoy running restaurants because it's something they can do, do well, and be proud of and recognized for in the "respectable" community. Which also doesn't mean that in the room behind the kitchen there wasn't an illegal poker game, a booking table and a cabinet full of sawed off shotguns. And now I totally want a couple of slices from that place (which is still open) with the cornmeal on the bottom, those huge garlic chunks and the puddles of cheese oil you get when the cheese is almost too fresh.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:35 AM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


Next up: Bingo heads to a Korean massage parlor, remarks at how clean and professional it is and how happy all the workers seem, and what a great, family-friendly place it is for a backrub.

Seriously though--excellent work, and I'd love to keep hearing more, particularly from the perspective of the girls, as to how this got turned around. Because that's good information to have out there for anyone else in this situation.
posted by availablelight at 6:38 AM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Which also doesn't mean that in the room behind the kitchen there wasn't an illegal poker game, a booking table and a cabinet full of sawed off shotguns.

I've always assumed that's what MeFi World Headquarters (TM) was like.

Also, I now want pizza.
posted by lukemeister at 6:39 AM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Just n'thing the awesomeness of this whole thing. Have chipped in some beer tokens.
posted by prentiz at 6:40 AM on May 21, 2010


Wow, shakesville thinks we’re awesome.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:41 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]




> When I was a kid, there was a restaurant in town well known as being some kind of front for organized crime. The thing is, we went there all the time. The prices were good and the food excellent.

Was that town New Haven? Because for years the best Italian restaurant in town was mob-run. (I have a funny story about trying to use the phone there that I think I've told before.) It's ridiculous to assume that because a place is a good restaurant/bar (good food, friendly service, etc.) it's therefore legit.

And now, back to the shmoopy!
posted by languagehat at 6:45 AM on May 21, 2010


Hey folks--sorry not to update last night, but Fake made it here safe and sound late last night, had a few beers and some pizza and is still sound asleep this morning with his car safely tucked in our garage. Quite a story--I'm sure he'll update when he can.
posted by BlooPen at 6:45 AM on May 21, 2010 [28 favorites]

And it would be one thing to say "It didn't look like a brothel to me," although Bingo has given no sense of expertise as to what a brothel might look like.
Actually, I believe he did claim to have expertise about what brothels look like. And because this is not a discussion about the ethics of the sex industry, nor about the good taste of discussing one's participation in the sex industry in a thread about possible sex trafficking, I'm not going to touch that one with a ten foot pole!

I'm just going to stand by what I said. I don't think that the kind of investigation that bingo did sheds any light on anything. And I don't claim to know for sure that anything terrible would have happened to K and her friend had they gone to the Lux Lounge. I just know that the whole situation sounded bad to people who are in a better position than bingo or I to recognize bad situations. And I guess that, in a situation in which someone may or may not be in danger, I think the possibility of danger trumps the possibility of safety. So it doesn't really bother me that we don't know for sure that we foiled a nefarious plot. It's enough for me that this morning, unlike yesterday morning, I'm confident that K and S are safe.
posted by craichead at 6:47 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


What wonderful news to wake up to this morning. It makes me happy to be a member of a community like this.
posted by Sailormom at 6:52 AM on May 21, 2010


Media coverage??? I don't really know what's going on there.

I just woke up after about 2 hours of sleep to get the grocery delivery. Kevin is Tetris-ing it all into our cabinets and compact refrigerator.

Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone who sent money. It was a huge relief to be able to order basic groceries without worrying where the money was going to come from, and be able to take them around the city a little bit (I think Toys R Us in Times Square is also on the itinerary).

Cheers and love!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:53 AM on May 21, 2010 [16 favorites]


I'm proud of you guys!
posted by Scoo at 6:59 AM on May 21, 2010


Amazing. But to the extent you guys still need help from locals/whomever now that the moment of urgency has passed, we remain here and ready.
posted by thejoshu at 7:03 AM on May 21, 2010


I may be overly paranoid, but given the media coverage of this thread now, it seems like a good idea to scrub out all the personal info on the Ask and Meta threads. There are personal phone numbers, names, and personal e-mail addresses all over the place.
posted by ga$money at 7:03 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I generally regret reading Fark comments, but I gotta admit they are sometimes pretty funny:

itsfullofstars: forgive me, but what was the end of this story?

His friend was a ghost the whole time.

posted by ignignokt at 7:04 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Sorry, I was just wondering when they realized it was a strip club, since they didn't seem to be believing fake and then all of a sudden they did. I think I must have just missed that part. I'll re-read the thread to put the pieces together."

I have no idea either but I'm thinking that these women have been through a lot so I'm probably just going to let it go unless they really want to talk about it.

It must have been quite a shock.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:05 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ugh, that Fark thread took a turn for the worse depressingly quickly. Never change Metafilter.
posted by minifigs at 7:07 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


I woke up thinking about this thread, and about what I could do to help other women in K & S's situation (besides sending tater monies to ifdn#9, which is happening as soon as I finish this comment). I clicked the links in onalark's excellent comment, and then, on a whim, decided to type "atlanta trafficking" into Google.

My city is apparently one of the world's hotspots for child sexual exploitation. It's a sex tourism destination. There's even a mayoral initiative (previous mayor, but still operating) that targets johns. I wouldn't have known about this without this thread getting me to think about domestic sex trafficking.

Although I am heartbroken by what I am learning as I look for the best way to join the work being done, I am simultaneously filled with awe and joy for those who put fingers to keyboards, ears to cellphones, and feet to pavement in the last 24 hours. fake, ifdn#9, pollomacho, allkindsoftime: I don't even have words, but mensch comes closest.
posted by catlet at 7:08 AM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fark: Ugh, that Fark thread took a turn for the worse depressingly quickly.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:09 AM on May 21, 2010 [16 favorites]


Yeah, Fark is an acquired taste. After reading through to the point where fake was cut off, I went and looked at kittens for most of the night. Then checked in and huzza! Went to sleep finally.

idfs, you have $mail.

Also wearing my MetaFilter shirt today. I feel like I should put the thread number on a sleeve or something.
posted by lysdexic at 7:09 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. I've been overworked in ninehundred different ways this week, so I missed this when it was happening, but Jesus Fuck you guys are awesome. HUGZ ALL AROUND.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:12 AM on May 21, 2010


That thread sure was an emotional roller coaster ride! Good show to all of the involved! What a great note to start the weekend on.
posted by Harald74 at 7:15 AM on May 21, 2010


Very, very proud of Metafilter today.
posted by BT at 7:25 AM on May 21, 2010


Woo!

I gotta put some tape over my t-shirt today...

Everyone Needs a [FUCKING AWESOME INTERNETS POSSE]
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:27 AM on May 21, 2010


I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who was involved in this. When I stopped reading the thread yesterday things were pretty bleak, and this is about the happiest ending we could have hoped for. I'm once again glad that this web exists and that you guys are a part of it.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:27 AM on May 21, 2010


These threads have also changed the fate of a child.

I encourage you all to pay it forward in whatever way you're able.
posted by desjardins at 7:33 AM on May 21, 2010 [14 favorites]


I've read both threads and can't figure out who KF is. Is it a secret?

Also, yay to everyone!
posted by Mavri at 7:34 AM on May 21, 2010


so... how long until parts of this whole story have the serial numbers filed off and get used in some dick wolf law&order franchise RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES story?
posted by rmd1023 at 7:35 AM on May 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


So proud to be a mefite today!
posted by Sophie1 at 7:35 AM on May 21, 2010


This restores my faith in humanity. I love Metafilter and all the users. Good work, guys!
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 7:36 AM on May 21, 2010


As far as I can tell KF is the DEA agent from Breaking Bad. Seriously. Sounds just like him. And is awesome and really helped me stay calm.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:37 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm so proud of you guys I could plotz.
posted by mcwetboy at 7:37 AM on May 21, 2010


This is nice work all around. Good job, everyone.
And IFDS, SN9, you are a genius.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:40 AM on May 21, 2010


I know of a restaurant in Cleveland that was shut down because it was discovered that it ran a seedy motel out back for prostitution. Looks can be deceiving.
posted by emilyd22222 at 7:45 AM on May 21, 2010


Excellent! I read that whole ask me thread to my SO like a bedtime story. I'm glad to know everything worked out!
posted by dhruva at 7:52 AM on May 21, 2010



three hundred computer nerds prevent two young girls from going out to a nightclub.

this is somehow the exact opposite of how social networking websites should be used.
posted by shipbreaker at 7:53 AM on May 21, 2010 [29 favorites]


>...still couldn't understand this last bit - how did the girls finally put two and two together? They went from "hey fake leave us alone" to "thanks for saving our lives" really fast.

This doesn't seem that strange. A lot of people work this way. It's: "I don't have a better idea, so this one is great, so just shut the F up!", and the more worried they are the louder they are. Then it's: "OH! Hey, new plan that works! You were so, so right!."

Probably we don't stop being that way at twenty-five, but others become less protective (and less helpful.)
posted by Some1 at 7:54 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


So proud.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 7:57 AM on May 21, 2010


right, so the loose ends are:

- who is KF?
- what made the girls change their minds?
- how did the plainclothes guys at the PA both know and not know who ifds,sn9 was?

ifds,sn9, you may have the answer to #2, but it seems likely to me Fake holds the answers to #1 and #3.
posted by mwhybark at 8:06 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is a user KF, but she's a she and not a he and is a lurker (if she's still here at all).
posted by amro at 8:16 AM on May 21, 2010


Hooray! I am happy to have had a very, very small part in this (jessamyn emailed me, I emailed ifdssn9 and alerted her about the thread). Yay yay yay hooray.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:17 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


It can be hard to know for certain if a club is a front for prostitution. It took one fbi agent 130 lapdances to make up his mind, here in Seattle.
posted by nomisxid at 8:20 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well done, MeFi! What a terrific community.

Metafilter: We have a very particular set of skills.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:30 AM on May 21, 2010


There was someone who called the girls while they were on the bus. Theye were in posession of sufficient information/evidence to convince them. It helped that they were not me.

Please note that the time stamps on the messages are 2 hours earlier because I was West in WY and they were out East.
posted by fake at 8:37 AM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Excellent work, everyone, please keep it up.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:42 AM on May 21, 2010


slate picked this up.
posted by millipede at 8:49 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just want to tell you both, good luck - we're all counting on you.

Really, really didn't want to use that line until I was sure they were safe...
posted by ZsigE at 8:52 AM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


slate picked this up.
And questioned the authenticity of it. It suggests they skimmed the details without reading either thread.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 8:55 AM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just wanted to chime in before this rolls off the page to say that I was also following these threads with worry and dread, and am very happy that things have taken such a turn for the positive. (I too wonder if the personal phone #'s & e-mails should be redacted now that the immediate crisis is past, but, I guess now that it's been farked & boing-boinged, it's a moot point)

idfss9, I adore you. If you need driving anywhere this weekend for additional shopping or touristing, let me know.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:55 AM on May 21, 2010


> slate picked this up.

I'm inclined to believe this story, but those two things jumped out at me. Is there anything else about this story that seems fishy?

Jesus, reflexive internet skepticism is tiresome sometimes.
posted by languagehat at 8:56 AM on May 21, 2010 [17 favorites]


Internet Fraud Detective Squad, I don't know what line of work you're in, but please memail me because I'd love to see your resume in case you're in the line of work we're hiring for. We would be proud to hire someone like you.

As to whether something is a brothel or not, there's a little fried chicken restaurant in my neighborhood. Know what they were running in the basement? A brothel. I am a local. I am from here. I am smart enough to know when a bodega is a front for something else, and to smile politely and get the hell out when they don't sell anything more than fabric softener (for the laundromat next door) and motor oil (could never figure that out). Which is what smart New Yorkers do when they encounter something fishy.
posted by micawber at 8:56 AM on May 21, 2010


> slate picked this up.

I kind of figured they would, but I was thinking they would actually do a bit of journalism here and they would run it around Monday on their news section. That was from their blogs section and the poster is skeptical of the whole thing. Interesting. I still don't think this has made it to any actual "news" sites as of yet.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:56 AM on May 21, 2010


Far be it for me to ask for a pony in this thread, but can we add a "Hero" flag when adding people as contacts? Because there's a couple of users I'd like to mark as such.

Great work, everyone.
posted by Remy at 8:57 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every now and then there is an AskMe question that's right in my wheelhouse and I can swing for the fences. It feels really great to be able to help someone figure out guitar chords, or help with a floral arrangement, or whatever. But this... well, it really puts all that in perspective. I am in awe of the people who were in a position to be able to help with this, especially the ones who worked behind the scenes are not getting all the recognition and kudos, and who quite possibly saved the lives of two strangers. Bravo, MetaFilter! It really is an honor to be a part of this community.

And Fake, we should all be so fortunate to have one friend like you in our lives.
posted by Balonious Assault at 9:04 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


There was someone who called the girls while they were on the bus. Theye were in posession of sufficient information/evidence to convince them. It helped that they were not me.

Thanks for the update. I'm guessing it was someone like Pollomacho or a NYPD detective or the mysterious KF. I guess I'll have to wait for the NYT article (or Dateline segment) to get the whole story. And, of course, the story is far from over. It's fantastic that the girls are currently having a good time in NYC, but they're still out their $3,000, they still need to find employment, and a lot of people (including, I'm assuming, the authorities) are going to be asking the girls' contact and the proprietors of the Lux Lounge a series of interesting questions. I'll be on the lookout for further significant updates, and thanks again for keeping us all posted.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:06 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am standing in the hallway of a capsule hotel in Tokyo, the hall is where I can get wifi. I'm out here because after reading these two threads, I just had to say how simply amazing this is. There are no words to describe this much awesome.
posted by etoile at 9:06 AM on May 21, 2010


If I ever think about jumping ship from MeFi to Fark, I'm just going to re-read their thread on this. It was a sobering reminder of why I prefer this space to most others out there.
posted by quin at 9:10 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


You didn't hear it from me, but KF is Ashton Kutcher.
posted by found missing at 9:12 AM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


So this has got me reading about sex trafficking, and I am quite literally astonished and appalled by what I am reading. The problem is huge, it's growing, it's international, and it's just horrifying. All I could offer in this instance was some advice and support, but this whole experience has got me feeling that I want to contribute something more.

I've gone ahead and pitched the idea of a Metafilter Music release, available for digital download, with the proceeds going to an appropriate organization to combat sex trafficking. I'd be very interested in pursuing this, if anybody else wants to pitch in.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:15 AM on May 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


So relieved everything turned out okay, everyone is well, and that there are so many awesome people in this community ready to help in any way they can. I'm glad grapefruitmoon convinced me to join because this is seriously amazing.
posted by questionsandanchors at 9:15 AM on May 21, 2010


I guess I'll have to wait for the NYT article (or Dateline segment) to get the whole story.

Please, we're clearly in New Yorker territory here, or at the very least, hold out for the Silver Fox aka Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes.
posted by geoff. at 9:18 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


shipbreaker, what is wrong with you? STFU and breathe in the happy
posted by phunniemee at 9:23 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


"...Fake made it here safe and sound late last night, had a few beers and some pizza..."

Christ, now we have to call out the detective squad to find Fake.

This is obviously a lie - there's no way to get beer in Utah County, and no one there would have any even if there was!
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:24 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


digg
reddit [reddit 2]
posted by dhartung at 9:32 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess now that it's been farked & boing-boinged, [anonymizing stuff is] a moot point

... slate picked this up.


Mooter even.

Truly amazing stuff this is.

posted by and hosted from Uranus at 9:33 AM on May 21, 2010


If Bingo had've stopped before this...
I would've flagged his comment as fantastic.


You, maybe, but many of his detractors would not have. The pile-on on bingo was going on well before he posted his snarky Q&A.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:35 AM on May 21, 2010


Yeah let me mention quicklike: If you have personal information in either of these threads and want it eliminated, let us know pretty well ASAP.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:35 AM on May 21, 2010


shipbreaker, please stop trying to crosspost that joke to the askme thread. It's obviously enough of a weird case already in terms of the amount of chatter we're letting go in there based on the circumstances, but the random quipping goes better in here and you've made the joke here already anyway.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:35 AM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hey guys, just spoke to IFDS: she needs cash (ie, not paypal) and a Russian immigration lawyer. Please contact her at xxx-xxx-xxxx if you're able to send money or if you know any legal contacts in the NYC area.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:38 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Slate story author's name is Daniel Engber. Never heard that last name before. Sounds made up. I'm skeptical of his skepticism credentials. Tagged the Slate story as "Metafiler." Suspect code. May be a russian spy. Suggest termination.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:39 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


1) Slate blogger is ostensibly a blogger yet has never appears to have never heard of using cute/clever/ironic/random aliases on a community forum. (Note to blogger: I am not literally falling into disuse, despite my name here.)

2) Slate blogger can use his mad Google skillz to find fake's resume, but couldn't even read the original question, which indicated that fake was traveling cross-country and posting from his phone and thus had limited internet access?

Oh, and he doesn't allow comments on his blog post for anyone to point out the obvious. Keep it classy, Daniel Engber.
posted by desuetude at 9:41 AM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Are they in touch with the consulate? Can't the consulate help with a lawyer?
posted by Miko at 9:43 AM on May 21, 2010


Oh, and he doesn't allow comments on his blog post for anyone to point out the obvious. Keep it classy, Daniel Engber.

There are comments; the same comments available on every other Slate article/post. And there are currently two comments doing just that, pointing out the obvious. (Could be a tech issue if you can't see the comments; I've had trouble with those JSKit comments from time to time.)
posted by devinemissk at 9:44 AM on May 21, 2010


The place I went last night was definitely the Lux Lounge. Cafe Lux was, I think, a coffee shop I used to go to in Seattle.

Anyway. No doubt this thread will be oft-reviewed in years to come, so I want to lay a few things out for the record.

- We don't know that these girls were ever associated with any person or organization involved in human trafficking.

- Anyone who told these girls that, based on the location of the original proposed meeting (Lux Lounge at midnight), the girls were headed toward their doom, was speaking from conjecture.

- My assessment of Lux Lounge could be completely wrong, but the fact remains that I am apparently the only person involved in this discussion who has actually been there, and one of only a handful of people who showed any interest in learning more about it than can be gleaned from a quick online search.

- A place of business with a previously small online footprint will soon have this thread associated with it as a primary search result. Anyone who says that's deserved or appropriate is speaking from conjecture.

- Anyone who told these girls that, based on the greater set of circumstances beyond the details (or lack thereof) of the club, they were headed toward their doom, was speaking from conjecture.

- The fact that authorities respond to allegations of a crime does not mean that a crime has taken place, or that, if it did, the people making the allegations understood it.

Some additional thoughts worth considering:

The notion "meeting in a strip club at midnight" has an ominous, TV-drama ring to it which, especially in the absence of additional information, seems to have succeeded in getting a lot of people riled up, especially since it was difficult at first to find much information online about the club in question. And that's exactly why I wanted to gather more information... these threads seemed to be moving forward based more on fleshing out the popular and easily imagined narrative than on examining the actual details of this situation, insofar as we had details available.

The resolution, it seems to me, also relies mostly on this collectively imagined narrative. There's a lot of "everything turned out okay" going on here, but the truth is that we don't know whether that's true at all. We don't know whether there was even a problem to begin with, we don't know if the Lux Lounge deserves all this smearing, and we don't even know whether the girls will be allowed to remain in the US.

I don't claim to have magical powers of perception that allow me to be sure that a story I'm hearing doesn't reflect the whole truth, or that a specific business isn't a front for a human trafficking ring. But to suppose that this means anything of substance is to buy into a witch hunt mentality. The burden of proof should not fall on the person who is merely suggesting that the conspiracy may not exist.

An elaborate tale has been woven between these two threads, with very little to support it beyond fear, speculation, anger, and hope. These are valid things to feel, but they do not in themselves prove anything. I think that when some time has passed and the air has cleared, at least some of you will read back over this discussion and realize that it sounds an awful lot like Congress' deliberations over whether to invade Iraq in the wake of 9/11.
posted by bingo at 9:44 AM on May 21, 2010 [29 favorites]


My cousin is a NYC lawyer and a real mensch. Sent details to ifds,sn9.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:47 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Everyone needs a hug, some people deserve a lot of hugs. Phew.
posted by ersatz at 9:49 AM on May 21, 2010


The fact that authorities respond to allegations of a crime does not mean that a crime has taken place, or that, if it did, the people making the allegations understood it.

Certainly. I suspect that was part of what was behind Pollomacho's post at one point that the women involved are adults. However, I also think that the experience and expertise of those authorities - including Pollomacho and the various others we don't know - needs to be given credit; if they were concerned that a crime seemed likely to occur, I'm not going to second-guess them, and I'd much prefer they step in, given the possibilities and the lack of serious downside to stepping in.

it sounds an awful lot like Congress' deliberations over whether to invade Iraq in the wake of 9/11.

Now that's just hyperbole.
posted by nickmark at 9:50 AM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Hey guys, just spoke to IFDS: she needs cash (ie, not paypal) and a Russian immigration lawyer. Please contact her at xxx-xxx-xxxx if you're able to send money or if you know any legal contacts in the NYC area.

Is there a better way we could do this than having hundreds of people trying to call her for the same information all day? Not trying to be critical and I don't know what the better way would be, but perhaps a way to send a check that doesn't reveal her address to the world or something?
posted by rollbiz at 9:51 AM on May 21, 2010


With regard to media coverage: I started noticing about five years ago that things I read on MetaFilter would be covered on the CBC Radio show As It Happens about 36 hours after I read about them. It was so regular an occurrence that it got me wondering if someone at the show was a member, or at least a lurker. It's dropped off a little, but it still happens, and a story like this is right up their alley, I'd think. So I'll listen for something tonight...
posted by nickmark at 9:52 AM on May 21, 2010


Also, I had nothing of value to add during this saga, but I have been following it the entire time and...Wow. Metafilter obviously isn't done completely amazing me yet.
posted by rollbiz at 9:53 AM on May 21, 2010


Wow. Congrats all around!
posted by graventy at 9:54 AM on May 21, 2010


I can't say I'm in full support of the way bingohas expressed his opinions in these threads, but from observing this whole thing, my opinions kind of line up with his. The narrative that has been crafted here is "we saved these women from being sold into slavery," but beyond conjecture, it's not clear that is what happened. Regardless, I'm glad everyone is happy and safe.


Jesus, reflexive internet skepticism is tiresome sometimes.

this seems to be a trait applauded in mefites but derided when directed at mefites.
posted by orville sash at 9:55 AM on May 21, 2010 [15 favorites]


bingo, I think it's still likely that something shady was going on here, but I think your perspective is valid. While I'm glad that the girls got away from it on the chance that it was serious trouble, I definitely don't know exactly what was going on at that club.
posted by ignignokt at 9:55 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been reading comments around various sites about this and wanted to point out something about commenting structure for people who aren't familiar with MetaFilter, and specifically Ask MetaFilter. From the FAQ page, the guidelines for Ask MetaFilter state:
Ask MetaFilter comments should address the main question being asked. Common reasons for comment removal are wisecracks, derailing/ranting/axegrinding, picking a fight with or heavy chastising of the question asker, single word posts (yes, no, DTMFA &c.) and other non-answers that should probably be brought to MetaTalk. While it's okay to ask follow-up questions to the original asker, piggybacking questions [asking your own related question within someone else's AskMe] will often be removed.
Sometimes moderators jessamyn, cortex or mathowie come in to clean up threads that are veering off track. They often delete comments that aren't appropriate for the AskMetaFilter subsite, and usually leave a trace (in the form of a comment/suggestion). MetaTalk (where we are now) is a specific place for discussing the meta aspects of the site, and is better suited for the kudos, suggestions and tangents that go along with this story.

Some people on other sites have complained about the moderation or seeming-rudeness of the following exchange (below). Looking at these comments, it is important to note that jessamyn's response here is NOT directed at fake, but rather a placeholder to address deleted comments or comments prior to and occurring after (but since deleted) fake's comment. This moderation style works for MetaFilter, helps with transparency, as well as encourages the higher quality standards of comment contributions on AskMetaFilter.
[folks - please take further discussion to MeTa, this is getting way far afield for AskMe, thanks]
posted by jessamyn at 12:48 PM on May 20 [2 favorites +] [!]

Posted some location info to metatalk. Though I have been cut off, as mentioned above wheels are still turning, communication happening, all possible safeties engaged and there is good reason to hold on to hope for a non-disaster outcome.
posted by fake at 1:48 PM on May 20 [1 favorite +] [!]

[folks, this needs to go to METATALK, not here. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:48 PM on May 20 [+] [!]
Anyways, it's a minor point, but I just wanted to point out what was going on for those not familiar with the social norms of MetaFilter and its subsites.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:57 AM on May 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


> An elaborate tale has been woven between these two threads, with very little to support it beyond fear, speculation, anger, and hope.

Jesus Christ, guy, let it go. I'm glad you had a good time at that fine establishment, the Lux Lounge, but you are talking out of your ass, apparently just because you can't stand the good feelings floating around. Don't you have something else you could be doing?
posted by languagehat at 10:00 AM on May 21, 2010 [17 favorites]


> this seems to be a trait applauded in mefites but derided when directed at mefites.

No, I deride it in MeFites too, but thanks for trying.
posted by languagehat at 10:01 AM on May 21, 2010


I think bingo is inserting some important perspective into this discussion (and appreciate the change in tone). Something happened here, and something bad may have been averted, but we don't have the full story. There's a lot of evidence to suggest that the situation the girls were in was at least fishy, perhaps criminal, but it is all speculative at this time.

Still, I think the actions taken were appropriate and correct even if the narrative we are assuming is true proves to be false. We know that this pattern in its every detail describes one of the commonest ways around the world that women get drawn into slavery. That's a good reason to become concerned and to take the time to have people who know something about this look more deeply at the situation. There are certainly possibilities here that something else happened - maybe just a shady travel agency and some serious language difficulties - but the best-case interpretation of the events we do know about is not great, while the worst-case interpretation is extremely serious. Given that weighing of consequences, stopping the moving train was the right thing to do.

It was a good idea to go check out the lounge. I wasn't worried something bad would happen and agree that a lot of people had "a movie in their minds" about what the place would be like. Having grown up in mob-riddled New Jersey, I agree with those that it's pretty common that places that operate as crime hubs are really, really nice! They're some of the nicest places around - best food, best drinks, fun atmosphere, great decor. This isn't some counterintuitive thing, despite what TV would make you think about organized crime taking place in seedy, smoke-filled concrete back rooms. There's a lot of money involved, after all. That's why people are in it in the first place. Cash businesses like restaurants, bars, and strip clubs don't provide just a physical front to conceal back rooms and make them look like a legit business - they provide something much more vital to the operation of crime groups: a money-laundering operation. Thousands of dollars go into the till nightly - from what, the bank wants to know? "Tips on drinks and food, tip percentage from the girls dancing, a large party paid cash in big bills, look, here's the reciept we wrote them..." and so on. The nicer and busier the place, the more high-end stuff there is to do and buy, the better and more varied the service, well, the more those big cash takings look reasonable. So though it was a good idea to go see, the niceness of the place has no correlation with what the owners might be doing at the back of the house. Do we know that about this place? No, not definitively. Have we ruled that out? No, it's still a possibility that crime is taking place there. It's correct that it's Schroedinger's cat right now, but there is legitimate reason to want to have it looked into.

So I think where I am is this: the jury's out on what is happening with this particular case and this particular business. We don't know if these women were "saved" from a life of forced servitude or just some inconvenience and a very unconventional job application process. But even if it turns out to be the latter, no appreciable harm has been done - if everything's aboveboard, no one has been permanently hurt. There was reason to suspect this wasn't aboveboard, and the law has been brought in to deal with it.

We're not actually the jury, nor in any position to mount a thorough investigation of whether the lounge or the travel agency is breaking the law in any way. At this point we should let those wheels turn - there's not much more to say on the matter until we have full information. It IS within the realm of possibility that this was blown all out of proportion and everything is A-OK and boy, will our face be red! - but it's actually not the strongest possibility, all things considered. So it's worth checking out. And it appears to me that people on this site, at least, have learned a lot about how common human trafficking is, how its mechanisms work, and where to go to give support and get information. That's a huge win.
posted by Miko at 10:05 AM on May 21, 2010 [81 favorites]


Hi All.

The travel agency is pressuring K and S to make more immediate moves. They need:

1. Someone who can translate for them.
2. An immigration lawyer. Ideally this lawyer would be #1.
posted by fake at 10:06 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am calling Jessamyn's contact now.
posted by fake at 10:07 AM on May 21, 2010




started noticing about five years ago that things I read on MetaFilter would be covered on the CBC Radio show As It Happens about 36 hours after I read about them.

I notice the same thing with the New York Times.
posted by Miko at 10:10 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


ifds... - someone just copypasted your phone number into that godawful fark thread. You might want to screen your calls for a bit.
posted by mintcake! at 10:10 AM on May 21, 2010


I, for one, just look forward to bingo's next comparison. Is the discussion in this thread comparable to the Scopes monkey trial? To HUAC? To the killing of Leo Frank?

Who can say? Whatever it is, a group of strangers concerned about the well-being of two visitors to America who may or not have gotten mixed up in something shady, and were being routed to a place the demonstratively has ties to prostitution, and were setting enough alarm bells that police and professionals in the sex trafficking industry considered the threat to the young women credible, is somehow needing an additional perspective that compares it to the decision to illegally invade a sovereign nation.

Thank you for that needed perspective. It has been expressed. Not sure what benefit will come from reiterating it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:11 AM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


And you & fake are v good eggs, whatever the heck is happening here.
posted by mintcake! at 10:11 AM on May 21, 2010


No, I deride it in MeFites too, but thanks for trying.

I never said that you didn't, but healthy skepticism in the general mefite populace exposed Kaycee Nicole, givewell and that photoshopping by times photog among others. I'm not questioning the existence of these women, or the fact that they're now with ifds thanks to the hard work and kindness of many many mefites. I also don't question that they're probably a lot better off in this situation than the one they were about to walk into.

But no one was ever hurt by reserving judgement or questioning assumptions before all the facts are in. Not you, not me, not metafilter not Dan engleberg or whatevet his name is.
posted by orville sash at 10:11 AM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've put out feelers for a Russian-speaking immigration attorney in NYC.
posted by *s at 10:13 AM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah. What Miko said, basically. Thanks miko.
posted by orville sash at 10:14 AM on May 21, 2010


I think there's a middle ground between bingo's perspective and the group perspective. bingo, your skepticism is admired, but you're drawing the wrong conclusions. As many people have said, it doesn't matter one lick that you went to the Lux Lounge and had a drink with your girlfriend. The Lux Lounge may appear to be a respectable enough establishment (especially on a Thursday night), but if there were anything seedy going on, it probably would not have a neon sign pointing to the downstairs rumpus room. So, again, congratulations for going? I guess? The point is that the conclusions you drew were just as suspect as the conclusions you are accusing others of making. "It is not a strip club" you said, but the interwebs tell us that strippers have parties there. So turn a little of that skepticism on yourself, friend. It's not that what you did was "mean" to the people who are schmoopy over the good news, the point is that you going to the club was/is irrelevant to the actual story here. So, there's that.

On the other hand, your point about none of us knowing exactly what happened/who is involved here is a very valid one. I was pretty surprised to hear that ifds,sn9 had no idea why the girls changed their mind or when - reading this thread, it sounds as though the girls just hopped off the bus, the cops drove everyone home, and then everyone went drinking. It sounds really bizarre to me, but I don't have all the facts; I assume that in time we'll hear the full story.

And finally, you need to understand that there is a way to make your point without drawing attention to yourself as a jerk - ultimately this only hurts your point, as people read past what you actually have to say and focus only on your jerkiness. Dial it back and present your points respectfully - pulling stunts like comparing this to 9/11 and Iraq is just dumb and gets you nowhere.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:15 AM on May 21, 2010 [12 favorites]


I never said that you didn't, but healthy skepticism in the general mefite populace exposed Kaycee Nicole, givewell and that photoshopping by times photog among others

I applaud healthy skepticism. In each instance, there was ample reason to be skeptical. There was precious little reason to be skeptical here -- nothing I can think of -- and much reason for concern. Skepticism for its own sake is not healthy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:15 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


We also don't have the full story from the people here on MetaFilter who were directly involved with this. We need to assume that this was necessary to preserve everybody's safety. And it's also really none of our business.

I'm quite impressed with both the transparency and discretion that MeFites have demonstrated. I can also see places where one can start reading between some lines. And we should probably let that go. It doesn't help anybody. The important thing is that these girls are safe, and we can trust fake when he says that they wouldn't be...if it weren't for the open hearts and protective & quick thinking of this community. That should be enough, and there's plenty to be proud of here.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:15 AM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Why is it that Miko always ends up saying things better than anyone else? I should have previewed. Well said, Miko.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:17 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Just because no one has come on here and explained in detail every single event that took place, and every single reason that qualified professionals who work in the field identified this as an at-risk situation, does not mean that you are right. Sometimes you have to accept that your questions are not going to be answered to your satisfaction.

Believe me: I am the first person to not trust my government, but sometimes, just sometimes, you CAN'T know absolutely EVERYTHING and you have to live with the fact that no, the DEA and the various bodies of law enforcement are not going to come in here and tell you exactly what's going on, and that there are very good reasons for that, reasons they aren't going to and can't explain to you, whether you like it or not.

The fact that the Lux Lounge won't get shut down in the next day or two doesn't mean that everything's on the up and up and we should all have some kind of meetup there and patronize it on a regular basis.

It is difficult if not impossible to get the NYPD to show up when actual crimes are committed. I don't think they showed up at Port Authority to intercept the two girls unless they had actual, real evidence that they were in danger and at risk. If the cops had not showed up, I would say that skepticism would be warranted. But the cops showed up. Now, I believed the story from the beginning, but if I hadn't, this would have sealed it.
posted by micawber at 10:19 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ultimately, if the question is "Do we know that we saved those young women from prostitution," no we don't and can't, and never will. But the environment they were in is consistent with that of sex trafficking, and everything about it stunk to high heaven, and, as the only way we could know for sure would have been to stand back and watch two visitors to America meet with somebody they didn't know in a town they don't live in in a club with ties to prostitution, I'd rather not know.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:19 AM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


What Miko and orville sash said.
posted by amro at 10:20 AM on May 21, 2010


I'd rather be embarrassed at having helped people not get into trouble that turns out to actually not be trouble than to skeptic my way into doing nothing.

(Not that I actually helped, unless you include biting my nails and hitting "refresh" every thirty seconds to be helpful.)
posted by rtha at 10:21 AM on May 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


I think I need to clarify and say again that I think a mefi intervention in this case was a totally good move. But I certainly don't begrudge anyone, mefite or otherwise skepticism about the following: "metafilter saves women from sexual slavery" as there's a lot as yet unknown. Honestly, I hope the community ends up being wrong about that, because there are plenty of other women in similarly vulnerable situations who don't have the benefit of an active community of 20k users to help them out.
posted by orville sash at 10:25 AM on May 21, 2010


Any sweeping congratulations or internets-feel-goodism is misguided. There is some sense that these girls are 'out of the woods' but that's simply not the case. I feel like they are not going to be "out of the woods" for a while. The proverbial woods are life.

They are responsible for their own actions, and there is no way for anyone to prevent them from making mistakes. They are young and fresh off the boat, and completely out of any sort of comfort zone (but they smoke skinny cigarettes!), and probably they will be getting a lot of attention that they were not expecting from the internets, reporters, law enforcement, etc. I really feel for them, and I am very curious about what they are going to do now.

Also, please don't contact me about my role in this. Thanks.
posted by fuq at 10:26 AM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Now it's on Gawker, complete with a big ass.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:27 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just because no one has come on here and explained in detail every single event that took place, and every single reason that qualified professionals who work in the field identified this as an at-risk situation, does not mean that you are right. Sometimes you have to accept that your questions are not going to be answered to your satisfaction...

The fact that the Lux Lounge won't get shut down in the next day or two doesn't mean that everything's on the up and up and we should all have some kind of meetup there and patronize it on a regular basis.


Who is this addressed to? Because I don't see anyone in this thread making those sorts of claims. (Except for the "meetup" part, which was suggested by TPS, but I took that as tongue-in-cheek, not a serious suggestion.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:28 AM on May 21, 2010


fuq is right. This isn't over.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:31 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


An elaborate tale has been woven between these two threads, with very little to support it beyond fear, speculation, anger, and hope. These are valid things to feel, but they do not in themselves prove anything. I think that when some time has passed and the air has cleared, at least some of you will read back over this discussion and realize that it sounds an awful lot like Congress' deliberations over whether to invade Iraq in the wake of 9/11.

I'd prefer it if we acted on fear and speculation when it involves the safety of potentially vulnerable people (children, immigrants and women who are the subject of violence primarily) and not when it involved killing other people in a war. There's a big difference there.

As someone who works with vulnerable people, I know that if you're going to wait for perfect information to ensure you're not getting duped, you're going to allow a lot of vulnerable people to be exploited. Your window is so small to prevent these things (Fake's window was what, hours?) and the potential impact is so devastating that yeah, you have to act and hope for the best.

I love scientific process as much as anyone, but you just don't always have the time to follow through in the real world.
posted by Hiker at 10:31 AM on May 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


From Gawker: Wow, this sure beats getting Betty White on SNL.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:31 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


It was addressed at the "well you didn't REALLY do anything"s that are coming around. I bow out now, except to offer (212) 626-7373 as the number for the NY Bar Association Referral line. they can connect you with a Russian-speaking (or translator-available) immigration attorney easily.
posted by micawber at 10:33 AM on May 21, 2010


bingo: What do you think should have been done? Do you believe the girls should have been left alone to go to this meeting with no warning?
posted by Justinian at 10:33 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have sent an email to my Russian friends in Pittsburg asking if they know of an immigration lawyer in NYC.
posted by jokeefe at 10:39 AM on May 21, 2010


But the environment they were in is consistent with that of sex trafficking, and everything about it stunk to high heaven, and, as the only way we could know for sure would have been to stand back and watch two visitors to America meet with somebody they didn't know in a town they don't live in in a club with ties to prostitution, I'd rather not know.

Word. I mean, at some point you apply Occam's Razor and go from there. Bravo to all of you who threw in to help in whatever fashion.
posted by Skot at 10:40 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Internet fraud etc., if the more direct referrals you're getting don't lead anywhere, try calling Catholic Charities Immigration Services at 212-419-3700. I betcha they have a Russian-speaking lawyer on staff somewhere.
posted by Mavri at 10:40 AM on May 21, 2010


Has it not occurred to anyone that the Lux Lounge may itself have had nothing to do with the situation, but was simply chosen as a meeting place because the shadier of the contacts liked it there? Debating whether or not its a front is largely irrelevant when the main tip offs that this is shady comes from the sudden shifting of jobs from once state to another, the dodgy agency used to bring the girls here, the targeting of women with poor english, the manner in which fake was thrown between one contact and another, and the things happening on the ground that we are not privy to here on Mefi.

Simply, we have the advice of a lot of people who are professionally involved in human trafficking who are advising that this be treated as human trafficking. I think we really ought to respect their expertise, especially when the conclusion comes from a variety of different sources.
posted by Jilder at 10:42 AM on May 21, 2010 [19 favorites]


I know a great immigration lawyer here in Worcester, just emailed him to see if he knows anyone in NYC who would fit the bill as he is from there.
posted by rollbiz at 10:44 AM on May 21, 2010

Honestly, I hope the community ends up being wrong about that, because there are plenty of other women in similarly vulnerable situations who don't have the benefit of an active community of 20k users to help them out.
That's how I feel, too.

I dunno. Since the very start, I've approached this as "this could be a problem" rather than "this definitely is a problem." But when we're talking about fairly scary stuff, the fact that it *could* be a problem seemed like cause enough for concern. But I'll agree that some of the "internet saves women from life of sex slavery!" outside publicity is kind of creeping me out. We don't know that, and I'm not sure that anyone involved is going to benefit from the publicity.
posted by craichead at 10:45 AM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


> Except for the "meetup" part, which was suggested by TPS, but I took that as tongue-in-cheek, not a serious suggestion.

That suggestion wasn't about the lounge in question but about Brighton Beach in general, and I hope it was serious. If I still lived in NYC I'd love to go to Brighton for a meetup; great food and booze and a beach, what's not to like?
posted by languagehat at 10:45 AM on May 21, 2010


there are plenty of other women in similarly vulnerable situations who don't have the benefit of an active community of 20k users to help them out.

True and sobering.
posted by Miko at 10:47 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rumble in Brighton tonight!
posted by edgeways at 10:48 AM on May 21, 2010


Podcast request: if it's ever safe for people to talk about it, this story would make an epic podcast. Anybody up for interviewing the principals? Probably several interviewers would be needed, since fake is on the other side of the continent by now and Pollo is in DC.

I've been following the thread, trying to piece the tale together, but a chronological account would be really interesting. Maybe see if some non-MeFites, like the cops and the mysterious KF, would be willing to talk. There are still a few things that aren't clear, and maybe some of the behind-the-scenes stuff might explain it all.

Although, honestly, it doesn't sound like these Russian girls are out of the woods yet. Travel agency pressuring them? Need an immigration lawyer? Sounds a little scary, and who knows what's happening back home in Russia with family and friends. Yikes. It's still probably a little too soon to tell the whole story, but maybe we could record some preliminary interviews while the memories are still fresh?

stuff like ifdss9 posing as Funtime Party Girl is brilliant, and I bet there's more like that
posted by Quietgal at 10:50 AM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


One surprised person discovered that his or her grandmother had lived at the address in the 1920s. But everyone ignored that.

It didn't seem on topic to comment, but I thought that was pretty interesting, and for a moment gave me one of those 'wow, life on the globe is so all-connected' moments.
posted by Miko at 10:51 AM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's not that what you did was "mean" to the people who are schmoopy over the good news, the point is that you going to the club was/is irrelevant to the actual story here.

Less than 24 hours ago, the detail that the scheduled meeting was OMFG AT A STRIP CLUB was an important indicator to a lot of people, with each additional detail unearthed about the Lux adding fuel to the speculative fire. Now that I'm presenting evidence in favor of the club's legitimacy, there's plenty of "gee whiz, bingo, don't you realize that it doesn't matter what the business looks like?"

But it does matter, because this entire thing has been fueled by perception. "Strip club" set off alarm bells for a lot of people, because, after all, strip clubs are often where sex slaves from Russia end up working. Specifically, per the hype that I've seen on the news just like the rest of you, they end up working in the sleaziest version of strip clubs, which are basically brothels, with the clientèle being nearly 100% male, the lap dance being the de facto advertised service, prostitution being easy to negotiate, and unrelated services like decent food being either trivial or non-existent.

The Lux, like many other venues that are not the kind of place I just described, does seem to sometimes have female dancers. Last night, there was a belly dancer. She performed for about twenty minutes, and kept all her (belly-dancing) clothes on. There was a small audience of young couples, all of whom looked like they were on dates.

Does any of this prove anything? No. But neither does the fact that the Lux is the place where some guy wanted to meet some women to talk about a job. And I think, if there had been a way to show everyone in this thread this time yesterday what the place is actually like, many people here wouldn't be nearly as worked up about all this as they are right now.
posted by bingo at 10:52 AM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


this story would make an epic podcast This American Life.

In addition to the podcast, of course. And whatever way it turns out.
posted by Miko at 10:52 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Has it not occurred to anyone that the Lux Lounge may itself have had nothing to do with the situation,

It has occurred to me and even with all the information I have, the specific involvement of the place is not 100% clear, so people can lay off that angle any time now.

The important thing here is that there was a potentially awful situation that was never proven to be awful (and the only way that could be conclusively proven is by harm to K and S). That possibility was summarily removed from the space of all possibilities. That is what happened here.

Now I and others are working on the more important stuff -- getting them set up safely, which is going to take time and effort.
posted by fake at 10:54 AM on May 21, 2010 [21 favorites]


why do two women on a travel exchange program need an immigration lawyer?
posted by msconduct at 10:56 AM on May 21, 2010

why do two women on a travel exchange program need an immigration lawyer?
Because their visas are tied to a travel/ employment agency that is behaving in a shady fashion.
posted by craichead at 10:57 AM on May 21, 2010


why do two women on a travel exchange program need an immigration lawyer?

It sounded like it was a work vacation visa (or something roughly equivalent), and they no longer have the work.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:57 AM on May 21, 2010


oh, I dunno, bingo. Maybe you came on hookah night and not on strip club night. I propose you go back every night for (say) a month to get a better feel of the club.
posted by boo_radley at 10:58 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm quite annoyed that the outlets picking this up are doing it under ledes like "Internet Saves Two Russian Girls from Sex Slavery."

First of all, as everyone is aware, one giant crisis awesomely averted does not mean that anyone has been rescued-end-of-story.

Secondly, the ledes imply claims that no-one here is truly trying to make -- the accusations have been largely more along the lines of "shady as hell" plus "it certainly does walk and quack like a trafficking duck."

I know, I know, the internets are not famous for delivering news with nuance and depth.
posted by desuetude at 11:00 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


That suggestion wasn't about the lounge in question but about Brighton Beach in general, and I hope it was serious. If I still lived in NYC I'd love to go to Brighton for a meetup; great food and booze and a beach, what's not to like?

I was serious! We did a meetup once at Coney Island, and wandered down toward the Brighton Beach area for dinner. It was very nice. Will have to do it again sometime this summer.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:00 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


OMG guyz we are acting like 9/11 just happened.. get ready to invade the Lux and burn it to the grooooound!



To be fair bingo, you are engaging in some of the hyperbole you condemn in others, and name calling to boot.

dude, let it go, you are acting more like a poison pill than a reasoned voice of dissent.
posted by edgeways at 11:07 AM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


There was one good comment on that fark thread (never thought I'd write that) to the effect of, "if you feel relief for these young women, think about that relief next time you are looking at Russian porn on the internet." In other words, there is a very strong chance that a similar set of circumstances is the background to much of the global porn industry.
posted by Rumple at 11:08 AM on May 21, 2010 [38 favorites]


The Jewish Community House mentioned upthread may (MAY) be able to provide them with a pro bono Russian-speaking lawyer.
posted by griphus at 11:10 AM on May 21, 2010


But neither does the fact that the Lux is the place where some guy wanted to meet some women to talk about a job.

Oh, stop it. You are willfully oversimplifying the situation by erasing the entirely crucial context to the story so that you can feel justified in having sneered that local and federal law enforcement agents (who are actually trained in this sort of thing, unlike you, but never mind) were caught up in a web of "naive, fearmongering, masturbatory, myopic bullshit." It is not that some guy merely wanted to meet some women to talk about a job. It is that the specific circumstances under which this guy wanted to meet this women to talk about a job set off every alarm bell regarding human trafficking among those people who are in a much better position than you to know.

But you already realize this. You were just secretly hoping to be the guy whose skepticism managed to uncover another Kaycee Nicole. And once it didn't, you have to save face somehow.
posted by scody at 11:11 AM on May 21, 2010 [39 favorites]


I think, if there had been a way to show everyone in this thread this time yesterday what the place is actually like, many people here wouldn't be nearly as worked up about all this as they are right now.

I don't think that's true because the scenario is totally consistent with past experience of how people end up in slavery, and a lot of people here are familiar with that reality. I don't think any knowledge about how the place looked would have influenced my opinion on this; if anything, it sounds like it looks as it's expected to. I do think that to some degree, you're providing a demonstration of how this activity can easily proceed under the radar: it doesn't look, sound, or smell like you think it will.

Check out this article; it focuses on sex-trafficking rings that run women through Mexico before selling them in the U.S. instead of those who import women directly. But note that the numbers of women trafficked from Eastern Europe are huge; that travel agencies asking a fee of "around 3,000" are a major recruitment strategy; that women are told that jobs as hostesses and waitresses in attractive cities await them; and that the reporter examined one story in which a buyer met the agent at a Hard Rock Cafe to do a transaction for a van full of six Ukrainian women. The article contains plenty of detail on how the women are corralled, purchased, delivered, driven around to turn tricks, kept in houses in New York and New Jersey with groups of other slaves, and lots more information on how this is run. It's just so close to the line these women heard and the structures that are usually used that there is every reason to be concerned.

A comment on the Gawker piece is vivid:
"Hostess/girlfriend of the thuggish owner
Bottle waitress
Back room hand jobber
Half-wretched brothel prostitute
Totally wretched junkie/brothel prostitute

That's how you are demoted, then pushed into prostitution when you do not speak English and are illegally in the country."
And that's an even more subtle form of gradual-descent-into-control than the direct sale that the NYT article talks about, but still illegal.

Skepticism is healthy and is built into our legal system anyway, but it doesn't need to solidify into denial. There's something to investigate and no indication that an investigation is unnecessary. This kind of thing is going on around us -- maybe not to these women, or maybe so, but it's going on right now.
posted by Miko at 11:13 AM on May 21, 2010 [21 favorites]


I can appreciate the desire to point out that we don't know with absolute certainty that this was a sex trafficking threat, there were enough credible clues that something was awry to warrant everyone's suspicion. And the threat caused by over-reaction is minimal (some visiting girls don't get a hostess job, they get to meet some strange internet people, etc) whereas what happens when there is no reaction to a honest threat is unspeakably horrible to the people it targets.

I would liken this to getting an email from a Nigerian prince who wants you to help him move some money; is it within the realm of possible that this could happen? Probably. But you'd be foolish to not look at the mountains of evidence with suggest that trusting it at face value would be a mistake.

Regardless of whether or not we ever find out how real this threat was, I'm going to call this a win.
posted by quin at 11:15 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


They flew all the way from Russia and then took a bus from DC and the (perfectly innocent nothing to see here folks) contact couldn't be bothered to meet them in the daytime, is that the theory of the doubters? I love a skeptic, but how does the situation not arouse your skepticism about the intent of this agency and the parties involved?
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:15 AM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well, it is possible that nothing untoward was happening here. It may come out, in a mo0nth or so, that this was an especially inept program, and that it was the most perverse of coincidences that the guy who runs it picked a place that has ties to stripping and whatnot.

But, if so, it's an ineptitude that have reasonable people cause to be concerned, and accidentally duplicated the documented techniques of sex traffickers, and I just don't see the value in dismissing that concern as being contemptible.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:18 AM on May 21, 2010


"if you feel relief for these young women, think about that relief next time you suggest in AskMetafilter that someone hire a sex worker.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:18 AM on May 21, 2010 [23 favorites]


It's a surreal experience to see these other blogs add on a giant, "SUPPOSEDLY!" to the story. I thought everyone knew Metafilter is the most trusted name on the internets.
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:18 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a surreal experience to see these other blogs add on a giant, "SUPPOSEDLY!" to the story. I thought everyone knew Metafilter is the most trusted name on the internets.

I laughed at the gawker comment that was all ‘but I only trust gawker!’
posted by dinty_moore at 11:22 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Suggestion from my Russian friend: Tsiring Law Firm. They speak Russian and specialize in immigration cases.
posted by jokeefe at 11:22 AM on May 21, 2010


Further: they are in Brooklyn. 718-332-5600.
posted by jokeefe at 11:23 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK GUYS thanks for memailing me about beer

BUT

We got the beer covered. We are all full of beer and food.

Thank you.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:28 AM on May 21, 2010


"if you feel relief for these young women, think about that relief next time you suggest in AskMetafilter that someone hire a sex worker.

Let's not have this discussion here, please; it can only muddy the waters of this particular situation. There are many sex workers out there who CHOOSE their profession, as hard as it if for some people to believe. This was obviously not going to be one of those cases, though.

To use an analogy, there are farmers who work in the fields because it's their profession, and there were slaves who worked in the fields because they had no choice and no freedom. That does not automatically mean field-work itself is by definition demeaning and unfree.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:28 AM on May 21, 2010 [22 favorites]


ifdssn9, did you drop this into your job interview?
posted by boo_radley at 11:37 AM on May 21, 2010


Metafilter: We are all full of beer and food.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:39 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: the anti-4chan [From the Fark thread]

In all seriousness: this is best $5 I've ever spent invested.
posted by omegar at 11:41 AM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Attention!

All the paypal money is awesome, you are all so awesome. However, they won't access to those funds for a while. They do need cash rather immediately. If you want to donate using Western Union there are several options. The fastest is the Cash in Minutes feature, if you do that at a WU location its only 5 dollars to send $50. Then she can pick it up within minutes. Or, you can have it delivered to her door! Its about $14 to overnight door deliver up to $100.
You do both of these option onine at Western Union

I have her physical address. If you would like to donate please memail me. For security reasons, I well only share this address if you have a significant posting history.

Unfortunately, WU is not set up to create an individual account, so at this time, we'll have to do this one by one.
posted by stormygrey at 11:42 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


bingo's reconnaissance, however disagreeably conveyed, did help answer a doubting question that had been in my mind: "If this is a trafficking trap, why risk raising the girls' suspicion by trying to seal the deal in a sketchy place, late at night?"

Well, now that makes a bit more sense. It would be easier to get a couple of jetlagged travellers to relax and agree to things --and maybe sign things-- in a classy setting. That's more how I'd do it. Yeah... Meet them at a time that would be early morning in their originating time zone. Present them nice clean contracts in English for jobs that are prohibited by their J1 visas. Maybe tell them later that they've voided their visas. What a cozy situation that would be.
posted by zennie at 11:47 AM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


You can still paypal me at

xxxx@gmail.com

or text at
xxx-xxx-xxxx (only if you have really time-sensitive help, otherwise email or mefi mail me)


MODERATORS AND OTHERS: It is totally fine for people to see my email address. It is fine for them to see my phone number. I have had nothing but helpful people calling and emailing. I don't want to cut off that line of contact, okay?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:47 AM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


Sorry if I seem terse...this is a really stressful situation for all of us, even if I seem to be joking about it, it has been rough on all of us.

They are happy and healthy, talked to their parents and boyfriends who are VERY worried. Reading the thread right now, actually.

So everything is great! Please be happy.

Thank you.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:51 AM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was surprised to find out you don't need to go to a WU office to send money any more. If you go to the website and select your country, you can send money from the comfort of your device.
posted by QIbHom at 11:52 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish there was a place on here where you can indicate that a thread made you cry.

Metafilter is always making me cry. I work really hard not to wear my heart on my sleeve, but you guys have made me cry far more than any other website.
posted by anniecat at 11:53 AM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


> And I think, if there had been a way to show everyone in this thread this time yesterday what the place is actually like, many people here wouldn't be nearly as worked up about all this as they are right now.

Yes, if only there was some kind of technology out there that could record events as they occurred, and some medium by which to transmit that recording to other people. If only!
posted by jabberjaw at 11:54 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


The original thread has been featured on The Awl.
posted by kittyprecious at 11:54 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh god! I just remembered! IANAL and I often misunderstand things, but I listened to a This American Life story that talked about a case where a bunch of Indian workers were trafficked (they came on T-1 visas which John Pickle said was only temporary and he was working on getting them work visas). If you get trafficked in the US by an American corporation, you can actually obtain US citizenship due to some kind of legislation that took effect during the Clinton administration.

Here's a Wikipedia summary of the situation.

Not that this is much help, because obviously getting a real lawyer will help. But maybe this will boost everyone's spirits and offer more hope for these women.
posted by anniecat at 11:59 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you want to send WU to a WU office rather than have it delivered (which is a prepaid VISA card which might be sketch even though they promise no fees) you can do that pretty easily either online or in-person, but you do need to communicate a fair amount of info to Katherine. This is a bulky bulky process and is more appropriate for larger amounts due to the fact that it is cumbersome to pick up.

This is the transcript I had w/ WU:
Abraham A.: You can contact the receiver to let them know you already send them some money
Abraham A.: Or depending on the country you are sending to you can pay for the phone notification service
Abraham A.: The receiver will need to complete a "To Receive Money" form (obtained from their nearest Agent location) with the following information: name, address, amount expected, as well as the sender's name, telephone number, city and state being sent from. Valid identification is also required. The MTCN may be required for payment.
Abraham A.: Is there anything else I can help you with today?
Rebecca born: What is the MTCN?
Abraham A.: Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN)
Rebecca born: Ok, the sender has to communicate all the above informatinon to the receiver? There is not just a pick up number?
Abraham A.: they need to have all the information mentioned above
posted by stormygrey at 12:01 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


These girls are gonna be so in thrall with US of A if money starts just showing up for them.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:01 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


f there had been a way to show everyone in this thread this time yesterday what the place is actually like, many people here wouldn't be nearly as worked up about all this as they are right now.

It wasn't primarily about the place, though that was a huge red flag; it was about the circumstances.
posted by jokeefe at 12:01 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's not have this discussion here, please; it can only muddy the waters of this particular situation. There are many sex workers out there who CHOOSE their profession, as hard as it if for some people to believe. This was obviously not going to be one of those cases, though.

Agreed: prostitution and sex work is not just one thing; it's a lot of different behaviours with different levels of choice and agency for the sex workers. The only thing that is the same on all levels is the transformation of (overwhelmingly male) desire or lust or whatever into money, that's all.
posted by jokeefe at 12:03 PM on May 21, 2010


Let's bring the schmoopy back, k? I spent yesterday refreshing these two threads and was totally overwhelmed by the sheer awesomeness of this community. Best of the web, indeed.
posted by Ruki at 12:06 PM on May 21, 2010


Maybe WU's biggest competitor, Moneygram? I'm not in a position to call, but a quick run around the website implies you just need to communicate a code to the receiver.

About US$10 to send $50 online, it looks like.
posted by QIbHom at 12:12 PM on May 21, 2010


You were just secretly hoping to be the guy whose skepticism managed to uncover another Kaycee Nicole. And once it didn't, you have to save face somehow.

You want to disagree with bingo about the relevance of what kind of business Lux is, fine. But if we're all such wonderful people as we seem to like to think ourselves, could we please refrain from armchair-psychologizing the worst possible motivation for people we disagree with?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:14 PM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


That sounds like something a closeted scalie* with BPD and a Catholic guilt complex would say, DA.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:20 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am just sitting here waiting for @aplusk Ashton Kutcher (or his wife, @mrskutcher) to chime into all this.......
posted by Maishe at 12:21 PM on May 21, 2010


....or at least mention it on Twitter.
posted by Maishe at 12:21 PM on May 21, 2010


internet fraud detective squad, station number 9: "It is totally fine for people to see my email address. It is fine for them to see my phone number. I have had nothing but helpful people calling and emailing."

One ahole in the Fark Comments on this posted your phone number and suggested harassing calls. Fark may have low standards but this was enough to get him banned.

So if you do get a harassing call it may be from this guy considering he probably thinks now that you caused him to be banned.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 12:25 PM on May 21, 2010


I've started on the wiki The Russian Incident. This is a first pass without any links. I figured that this must really confusing to anyone who is just now stumbling upon it.

My goal was to assemble a timeline that merged the two threads. I think right now it is a pretty good summary as a rough, rough draft (I was doing a lot of cut and pasting, so the narration might be weird).
posted by geoff. at 12:26 PM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


This is...so random as to be pointless, but I was supposed to be in a play based on an album/art piece written by fake and the fakeproject of america, but I turned it down to be in another show--and now a good friend of mine is in it--it opens in Vancouver next week. The world is small and strange.
posted by stray at 12:27 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't we set up a Metafilter version of Hawala, where we PayPal some money to volunteer MeFites in NYC, who then show up to meet the girls with the cash? Both donor and recipients would have to be trustworthy for it to work -- the recipient because obviously he's receiving money and needs to be accountable for actually delivering the full value of the cash, and the donor because he's sending money to PayPal that could still be challenged and/or possibly inaccessible to the recipient until it fully clears.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:27 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


That sounds like something a closeted scalie* with BPD and a Catholic guilt complex would say, DA.

See, this is just the sort of unwarranted statement I'm talking about. I don't have BPD.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:28 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just looked it up and based on the address provided there are indeed Money Gram's within a couple of blocks as well, up a couple over a couple. (Then again, I live in Atlanta, its looks close)
posted by stormygrey at 12:30 PM on May 21, 2010


Thank you jokeefe. Noted and will call.
posted by fake at 12:32 PM on May 21, 2010


But if we're all such wonderful people as we seem to like to think ourselves, could we please refrain from armchair-psychologizing the worst possible motivation for people we disagree with?

I'm not in an armchair; I'm posting from the car on my way to my tenth radiation treatment in two weeks. So if I'm a little pissy with someone's smugness, perhaps you'll forgive me.
posted by scody at 12:33 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Western Union will reject your wire if you are doing it online and have no listed phone number. I only have google voice and a cell phone number, which will not work.

Let me see if Moneygram is a better option for those trying to donate online.
posted by QIbHom at 12:36 PM on May 21, 2010


and DevilsAdvocate, I apologize. My tone was unfairly pissy toward you, but my impatience isn't really with you at all. Your point is totally a fair one.
posted by scody at 12:38 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


This was all worth it for the introduction of the word scalie.

Sorry to hear about your treatments, scody; I hope they are doing whatever they're supposed to.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:38 PM on May 21, 2010


This is...so random as to be pointless, but I was supposed to be in a play based on an album/art piece written by fake and the fakeproject of america, but I turned it down to be in another show--and now a good friend of mine is in it--it opens in Vancouver next week. The world is small and strange.

Couldn't be more OT, but I will post it to projects soon. Site is youarenotdead.ca
posted by fake at 12:40 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here we go. Gizmodo.
posted by functionequalsform at 12:42 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was serious! We did a meetup once at Coney Island, and wandered down toward the Brighton Beach area for dinner. It was very nice. Will have to do it again sometime this summer.

I think celebrating over pierogi, pelmeni, shots and zakuski is very much called for, once this is all over.
posted by availablelight at 12:43 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


We* love you, scody. When you're nice, you're very, very nice, but when you're prickly, you're BETTER.

*I speak for the trees.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:45 PM on May 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


Does anyone want to chip in to get up to $50/$100 for a WU wire? I can't afford the whole amount (and also couldn't send anyway, as I don't have a landline).

But, I'd like to paypal $10 to someone, if that person would then send the money via WU to IFDS. Anyone up to collect?

If not I'll send the $ directly via paypal.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:45 PM on May 21, 2010


I suggest that any MeFi folks compiling information for storytelling purposes (including the MeFi wiki) please wait until this situation is more sorted before posting detailed, lengthy synopses publicly. This may be an excess of caution, and I know that Slate, Gawker, et al. have all posted short stories. However, the State Department, city/federal law enforcement, immigration law, and Russian organized crime are all potentially in the picture, and for the girls, this is the beginning of a process and not yet the feel-good ending where everyone is safe and in a stable situation. I know the intentions are good, but the wiki can and should wait.
posted by hat at 12:46 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


To the people from the other parts of the Internet that think this is a hoax:

I sat and talked with K and S last night by the Hudson River. K's English was quite good, especially after only two years of practice. S's was minimal, but K was trying to get her to speak more of it—it's good practice. For some reason—the whiskey, perhaps?—we kept saying duuuuuuuuude over and over again. K also asked fuq and I why we both had beards. Obviously, she hasn't been to Brooklyn yet.

Good times. Not a hoax.

Also, anyone who's been to an NYC meetup in the last year or so has met kathrineg. She's definitely real.

K also explained how great of a guy fake is... Since I'd followed the AskMe thread, she didn't didn't have to do much convincing.
posted by defenestration at 12:47 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


No harm done, scody. Hope your treatments work out.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:48 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


"ifdssn9, did you drop this into your job interview?"

No, I had to miss the interview because I couldn't sleep last night. I told them the deal and they didn't respond--they probably think I'm the biggest liar in the world!

Oh well! Who needs that particular job anyway. I got to meet awesome people and talk to the niftiest mefites in the world. :)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:50 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I will join insectosaurus and pledge $10 via paypal to an established MeFite who wants to WU some cash to IFDSSN9.
posted by Dr. Zira at 12:51 PM on May 21, 2010


fuq is right. This isn't over.

This isn't ov— ah, fuck it. I'm just happy they're safe. Well done, everyone.
posted by Passillododorconquail Buttonquivorybidododorbacon at 12:54 PM on May 21, 2010


Ha ha! I wish it were a fake and this never happened.

It has had its happy moments, but has been an incredibly difficult and painful rollercoaster for everyone involved. There are still two people who know no one in NYC, who have no jobs, who don't speak English fluently, whose family and friends are terrified for them. I am about to collapse with exhaustion. My husband has been holding down the fort, entertaining and feeding 4+ guests in our one-bedroom apartment.

And we still haven't gotten to the Empire State Building!

But we will! It is our Everest!

I'll be offline for the next two or so hours and off the phone except for emergencies. We need to just unplug and relax.

Thank you everyone.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:54 PM on May 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


FWIW, I am also happy that katherineg never left us.

I was actually very sad about that
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 12:54 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Miko: "this story would make an epic This American Life."

This is a real option. Anyone (preferably not the intensely-busy principals) want to volunteer to make a pitch?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:57 PM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


ThePinkSuperhero: "From Gawker: Wow, this sure beats getting Betty White on SNL."

This was my thousandth favorite. So, in a perfectly apropos moment, let me thank Metafilter for this and the 999 bits of awesomeness that came before it.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:58 PM on May 21, 2010


Just thinking out loud, but since IFDS had to miss her interview, maybe we can help get her another one! At this point, is there anything MeFites *can't* do?

I've no idea what industry she's in, but if its anything tech related I've got loads of people I can reach out to here in NYC.
posted by dantekgeek at 1:02 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would be happy to do coordinate the paypal drop. I am going to be stopping by either WU or MoneyGram around 7:30 if you want to be part of a little cash infusion this evening.

Its rrborn@gmail.com
posted by stormygrey at 1:05 PM on May 21, 2010


As an aside, I have had the music from that goddam "Streetcar!" episode of The Simpsons running through my head like an absurdist soundtrack ever since this metatalk thread went up yesterday. It's putting me through hell-a.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:08 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Moneygram appears to do a soft pull of your credit score for their security. I failed that one, too, but when I called, there were a lot fewer levels of voice messages to work through to get a human than WU had, and he set me up in a tenth of the time it took WU to reject me.

So, WU needs a listed phone number, Moneygram does a soft pull. This is only for online. If you go in person, it is cheaper and I assume they check your license or something.

Sheesh. That's what I get for trying to save time on a busy day.
posted by QIbHom at 1:09 PM on May 21, 2010


These two threads have been amazing to watch unfold. I think metafilter is the only online community I know that can come together and get so much done is such a short period of time. I've always been nervous about posting online and here for some reason but its nice to know that metafilter is full of good people always ready to help out. The internet may be big and scary but metafilter isn't.
posted by lilkeith07 at 1:17 PM on May 21, 2010


stormygrey, i just paypal'd you.
posted by insectosaurus at 1:21 PM on May 21, 2010


Thanks everyone who has already acted so quickly!
posted by stormygrey at 1:24 PM on May 21, 2010


I paypal'ed/gmailed you IFDS.

(hug)
posted by special-k at 1:25 PM on May 21, 2010


Folks who are interested: I had a nice long chat with fake today and shorter talks with mathowie and with Mother Jones Magazine [gave them contact info for kathrineg and fake]. Right now I think we are here

- IFDS,S#9 and pals are set for a few days with food/beer. Do I have that right?
- fake is starting a new job Real Soon Now but if people are feeling generous, he would like to be able to get to NYC to rendezvous briefly with his friends. I can help coordinate that.
- K&S still need jobs and a place to stay longer term. They have tickets home in July. My understanding is that there's a fair amount of cultural baggage tied up in the choices they have to make [i.e. there may be jobs in DC from one of the non-sketchy-seeming orgs but they're not real gung-ho on that at this point] so this part is sort of a pain.
- media people are all over everyplace, so it would be useful to direct them appropriately and, to my mind, steer them away from the "Russian Girls Saved From Sex Slavery" angle. I'll talk to people, IFDS,S#9
- I'll check the wiki and make sure it's looking mostly accurate, add or remove details as needed.

Anything on the "needs doing RIGHT NOW" table that I've missed? I assume phone calls are being made or are in process for the other stuff [lawyers, activities today, etc]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:26 PM on May 21, 2010 [29 favorites]


You can always depend on the kindness of strangers
To pluck up your spirits and shield you from dangers.


Now here's a tip from Blanche you won't regret.
A stranger's just a friend you haven't met!
You haven't met!
STREETCAR!
posted by Sailormom at 1:27 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think Fake is going to try to make it to the Vegas area tonight (give or take an hour) after he wraps up some stuff here. Anybody know anybody with a couch and a secure place to park his car somewhere not too far from there and/or from I-15?
posted by BlooPen at 1:31 PM on May 21, 2010


Thanks stormygrey!
posted by Dr. Zira at 1:31 PM on May 21, 2010


I can't help but get that feeling in the pit of my stomach, like when the heroes save the baby from some danger and are so busy celebrating that they don't see the stroller roll down the hill into traffic. I hope the Feds and Police can operate and investigate efficiently with so much visibility and even more coming their way. I hope the added attention isn't getting in their way, and that they can shut down this thing that put these women in this situation and prevent any many as they can from falling victim in the future.
posted by yeti at 1:42 PM on May 21, 2010


"I think Fake is going to try to make it to the Vegas area tonight (give or take an hour) after he wraps up some stuff here. Anybody know anybody with a couch and a secure place to park his car somewhere not too far from there and/or from I-15?"

I would volunteer my place but we don't have a garage and our neighborhood is far, far from "secure." I will ask around, though, and try to find a good place.

I would definitely like to take Fake out to dinner when he arrives.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:42 PM on May 21, 2010


I'll MeMail him my number and then talk to some friends.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:43 PM on May 21, 2010


Kottke.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:44 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, this is just kind of weird.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:50 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


We're an army now?

Last I checked, we were a pantsless club.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:53 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nice work MeFites. You're good, fine people and I'm glad to be a part of this community.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:54 PM on May 21, 2010


The best case scenerio is that all the media attention parlays into legal help and then jobs for these women. Is there any way to make sure that's part of the pitch?: Yes, this was very exciting and dramatic, however, it isn't over yet and here's how you can help.....
posted by availablelight at 1:55 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm glad for the happy ending, and hope that things continue to resolve well. Reading these kinds of threads in almost real-time is weird, especially when one is far away and has no resources to offer.

And if the magic of MeFi could find IFDS9 a replacement job interview to make up for the one she had to miss, that would be cool beyond belief.
posted by Forktine at 1:56 PM on May 21, 2010


Oh well! Who needs that particular job anyway. I got to meet awesome people and talk to the niftiest mefites in the world. :)

Did you see this offer from Micawber?
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:01 PM on May 21, 2010


OK, one of my co-workers is pretty sure that he can provide Fake a secure garage and a place to sleep tonight. He's going to confirm for sure as soon as he runs it by his live-in girlfriend.

Interestingly, he'd already read the threads via a link from another website before I even told him about the situation!
posted by Jacqueline at 2:06 PM on May 21, 2010


I can't promise anything but if IFDS wants to send me a memail and tell me what they're looking for, I can let them know if it's a match, and make sure it gets to the top of the pile if it is.
posted by micawber at 2:07 PM on May 21, 2010


Amazing. We are not very far away from the reality of Bruce Sterling's short story Maneki Neko. Nice people from the internet provide!

Kudos MeFites.
posted by artlung at 2:07 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have to echo some of the posters upthread and say that I have finally been able to convince my co-workers that MeFi is indeed the best of the web.

Whatever unfolds now, whether the situation was as dire as we thought or not, the lives of those two girls have been changed. If not as drastically as by being saved from sex slavery, then at least by the knowledge that there are incredibly good people in the world who will help total strangers for no reason at all other than the goodness of their hearts, and that they have been the recipients of this help.

To fake, ifds#9, allkindsoftime and the rest of you who have been involved, thank you so much for taking action and doing something when you didn't have to.

You did good.
posted by widdershins at 2:09 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


And now picked up at, of all places, Deadspin.
posted by Skot at 2:11 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


(I mean, I know, I know Gawker media and all that, but a sports site? Well, whatever.)
posted by Skot at 2:16 PM on May 21, 2010


They're all Gawker and Gawker wants to sell sex and scandal. They want to emulate yellow journalists: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/archives/2010/04/gawkers_march_e.php
posted by defenestration at 2:20 PM on May 21, 2010


I bet Fake is regretting his screen name now. I don't know why people get hung up on. My suspicions would have been aroused if his screen name was listenisweartogodthisisthetruth.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:26 PM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


Wow! Amazing. You guys all rock!
posted by milovoo at 2:27 PM on May 21, 2010


MetaFilter, a decidedly less controversial community (more prone to asking for advice about interest rates and/or digestive issues)

My favorite description of us, ever.
posted by scody at 2:31 PM on May 21, 2010 [33 favorites]


Allright, I just want to set the record straight, since this thread probably will be saved for posterity. I'm the "A-Hole" that "posted the phone number" before on Fark. The only reason I did that was because I cross posted the entire message and I replied "it looks like somebody is going to have a bad day", in reference because alot of us had been warning since the morning that this might draw unwanted attention now. In no way was I attempting to reference to call the number and in no way could it be interpreted that way. That doesn't make any sense. If that did happen, I am sorry, and I should have noted to xxx out the numbers but it was just an oversight in my rush to posting.

Also, I fully know it was an overzealous mod who then proceed to edit the entire thread, even messages where I was self-deprecating and where other posters were in agreement as well. I guess to make us look like bigger a-holes or something. Whatever, I waste too much time on that site anyways.

I will say I am slightly skeptical of the whole ordeal. I'm familiar with many of the nightclubs in the nyc area that are "off the books" so to speak. They open up for a month, close down, re-open under a new name. Sometimes they don't card and open as a "prom party". They're also some of the only places you can get a beer for a decent price at about 5 bucks or so. They're actually pretty popular for alot of the "hip" crowd always on the scowl for the latest cool venue that "goes dead" after the first 2 weeks. And there is also alot of immigrant communities that pad their employees with under the table help. Yeah it's shady, there is reason to be concerned, but I thought it was a stretch to immediately assume "slave trafficking" right from the go and get the whirlwind going.

I might be wrong. This might bust the door on a whole range of illicit activities. I'll admit to being wrong in advance if that is the case on a followup. However, I do think if there are problems that arise from the *ahem* unwanted attention, I think alot of people have a responsibility to alleviate them.
posted by chudogg at 2:36 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is the story that keeps on giving.

Big damn heroes, indeed!
posted by deborah at 2:36 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bingo, and others who are riding the "We actually don't know if any of this is true" bus:

Every piece of hard evidence about the situation (the research done on Aloha, the lounge's website and other info about it, etc.)--not conjecture--convinced Pollomacho, whose job it is to deal with these kinds of operations, to go into full-on action mode. He knows far more about this than any of us possibly could, so I'm a bit more inclined to rely on his first-hand knowledge of what the initial stages of getting women into sex-trafficking looks like than on bingo's side-trip to Lux, or others' statements that we're spinning big tales from small info.
posted by tzikeh at 2:40 PM on May 21, 2010 [17 favorites]


Folks, the message below is from idfs,sn9:

We no longer urgently need a lawyer, it is pretty much under control. Thank you!
posted by caligari1 at 2:41 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


jessamyn: - fake is starting a new job Real Soon Now but if people are feeling generous, he would like to be able to get to NYC to rendezvous briefly with his friends. I can help coordinate that.

jessamyn, do I understand this to mean that we could paypal you money for a ticket for fake? Or does someone need to step up to help co-ordinate that? If the former, we need details; if the latter, who can do it? (I'd do it but I am heading into the deepest boondocks for a month on Sunday)

On preview: welcome to MetaFilter, chudogg.
posted by Rumple at 2:41 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can coordinate it. If people would like to pitch in some cash to help fake get to NYC, I can be the hold-the-envelope person for that.

Also added a "media mentions" section on the wiki.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:43 PM on May 21, 2010


wow, chudogg, you registered just to say that?
posted by boo_radley at 2:44 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hats off for stepping up, chudogg.
posted by Optamystic at 2:46 PM on May 21, 2010


This whole thing has given me perma-goosebumps. Wow. Just wow.

And well played to fake, ifetc and all the rest of the players. I ♥ Metafilter!
posted by Lynsey at 2:48 PM on May 21, 2010


Guys I know this is off topic but I already used my AskMe for the week and I had some questions about the ten year t-note and my lactose intolerance if anyone can help.
posted by haveanicesummer at 2:48 PM on May 21, 2010 [20 favorites]


I'm in NYC and can help out with a meal or what not. Memail me if you need.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:48 PM on May 21, 2010


Alright, who needs money and where should I send it?
Jessamyn, how do we get money to you for Fake?

I've been reading the other thread since before what is widely considered the "good" outcome but haven't had anything good or helpful to contribute to the conversation. But now, a concrete solution: throwing money at problems! Something I am qualified for!
posted by audacity at 2:52 PM on May 21, 2010


I bet Fake is regretting his screen name now. I don't know why people get hung up on.

I think a lot of people outside looking in don't realize how established the people involved with this are on the site. To someone like me the names Fake, internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 (and her previous name), Pollomacho, etc. are all real people that I recognize instantly but to someone else they might sound like sock puppets that were made up for this. I'm guessing all it will take to put the hoax speculation to rest is an outside quote from some sort of official confirming that this is indeed an ongoing case.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:52 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


oh, sorry if this is rather off-thread but tomorrow is the NYC dance parade. It's a fun, friendly, safe NYC outdoor event, with lots of decent NYCers. If you had out-of-town visitors it would be a entertaining afternoon.
posted by milovoo at 2:53 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Folks who would like to help out fake -- who is mostly fine, but if you'd like to help you can -- can send money to my paypal [myusername@gmail] and I'll make sure he gets it and will use it for a trip tp NYC or intensive therapy or some yoga classes.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:54 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am going to leave work shortly for Moneygram. If any one wanted be part of this immediate cash dump tonight, this is last call.
posted by stormygrey at 2:56 PM on May 21, 2010


First five responses if the original question had been posted by Fake on other places on the internet--

First post!!!
posted by Postfirst

Lol?
posted by kobebryantbeef69

Pics or it didn't happen.
posted by Anon Amos

First post!!!1
posted by Postfurst

In Soviet Russia...
posted by Smirnoff Ice
posted by haveanicesummer at 3:00 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


*quickly sets up paypal for myusername@gmail*

:)
posted by found missing at 3:02 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


uh--now it's been picked up by downloadsquad
posted by QuakerMel at 3:03 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did that Deadspin article call jessamyn a schoolmarm? Don't they know the difference between schoolmarms and librarians?


Because of this whole thing I had a weird dream last night about meeting people from MetaFilter and coordinating via text message and the only part I can really remember is being excited because jessamyn knew who I was.
posted by nickmark at 3:11 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Most ridiculously hyperbolic headline so far: MetaFilter Beats Russian Mafia

For our next trick, we'll be tracking down and capturing bin Laden.
posted by maqsarian at 3:24 PM on May 21, 2010 [27 favorites]


We're an army now?

Yes. Yes we are! An Army of Lovers!
posted by ericb at 3:33 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


wow, chudogg, you registered just to say that?

Yep, I've been on fark off and on since about 02, and never once paid for TF. Metafilter manages to sucker 5 bucks outta me for just one post. Go figure!
posted by chudogg at 3:38 PM on May 21, 2010 [15 favorites]


Two posts now! Welcome aboard.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:39 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


With fashion, a person is able to justify by spending a lot for an item by thinking of the "price per wear". Apply that maxim here! The more you use your account, the cheaper it will become. Some of us practically get paid to be here.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:42 PM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's amazing how badly Internet media can screw up the facts. Makes me wonder about everything else I read.
posted by desjardins at 3:42 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]




"I think Fake is going to try to make it to the Vegas area tonight (give or take an hour) after he wraps up some stuff here. Anybody know anybody with a couch and a secure place to park his car somewhere not too far from there and/or from I-15?"

Update: For those following along at home, this is now taken care of. Hooray for my wonderful, nice, generous coworkers who will be putting him up at their place tonight!
posted by Jacqueline at 3:53 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thats a Newsweek article is a pretty good update. Good to hear the money issues are taken care of so well.

Sounds like there is no shortage of good will on this one. Good to hear that Fake is taken care of also!

Sometimes a hastily assembled plan just comes together the way it should.
posted by lampshade at 3:55 PM on May 21, 2010


The story was enough to get me to sign on. I like seeing confirmation of the basic goodness of humanity. One sees it little enough these days, but I do know it's out there.
posted by Gamerchick at 3:58 PM on May 21, 2010


That Newsweek blog seems one of the best sum-ups of this I've seen. Obviously they talked to IFD9, but with the linking to the individual comments, it looks like the writer actually did some work and maybe even read the discussions. Much better than that POS post on that Slate blog.
posted by marxchivist at 4:00 PM on May 21, 2010 [17 favorites]


holy shit
posted by boo_radley at 4:01 PM on May 21, 2010


Have no media sources contacted Aloha? That seems like an obvious thing to do. Is it out of concern for possible police investigations?
posted by boo_radley at 4:07 PM on May 21, 2010


Aloha was trying to get them to go to San Diego? Eh yeah, trying to move them close to a high traffic border crossing isn't really helping your case here Aloha.
posted by geoff. at 4:09 PM on May 21, 2010 [14 favorites]


In addition to being a good summation of the case, the Newsweek article will perhaps help IFDS on this score, as well!
posted by scody at 4:14 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well it was either San Diego or Bangkok. SD's more doable I guess.
posted by Danf at 4:16 PM on May 21, 2010


I think IFDS begged off on the interview via email. Hasn't heard back from them.
posted by lampshade at 4:16 PM on May 21, 2010


Oh one last thing (lol).... you guys really did a good job coming together as a community the last couple days. My hats off to all you. Great work.

But i should remind you this one time on Fark we had a guy who got his sack stuck in the chair he was sitting on. We really came through for him on that one. Plus another time some chick took photos of a UFO off her back balcony, we ran some forensics and determined it was a streetlight.

So congrats on getting the bronze medal!
posted by chudogg at 4:17 PM on May 21, 2010 [112 favorites]


Inside an Aloha conference room:

Dude A: "They were on their way to NYC, but those snooping kids got wise to us!"
Dude B: "I already tried to re-direct the girls to San Diego, but they are only getting more suspicious!"
A: "Quick, we've got to get them off our tails... Think, damn you, think!"
B: "Tell them to go to some place 'wholesome'... Salt Lake City! Branson, MO! Somewhere!"
A: "Too late, those MeFites are showing them a good time. Arg!"
B: *raises fist* "Metafiiiiiiiilter!!!"

posted by m@f at 4:20 PM on May 21, 2010 [20 favorites]


Sort of like Kirk yelling "Kahhhn" eh?
posted by lampshade at 4:24 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


"One ahole in the Fark Comments on this posted your phone number and suggested harassing calls. Fark may have low standards but this was enough to get him banned."

I got one slightly weird text. Otherwise great.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:28 PM on May 21, 2010


But i should remind you this one time on Fark we had a guy who got his sack stuck in the chair he was sitting on. We really came through for him on that one. Plus another time some chick took photos of a UFO off her back balcony, we ran some forensics and determined it was a streetlight.

So congrats on getting the bronze medal!


chudogg, you're kind of awesome. You should stick around.
posted by Think_Long at 4:34 PM on May 21, 2010 [18 favorites]


don't tell me that Fark is made up of decent human beings too.
posted by desjardins at 4:37 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter, I like you guys. Even the new ones who got called aholes and then showed up here and were pretty funny.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 4:41 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


And we would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for those meddling kids and that pesky website!
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:44 PM on May 21, 2010


I think IFDS begged off on the interview via email.

Oh, I thought the quotes from the N'week blog were from an interview, but looking again it looks they are all comments. I guess the writer really did read the threads.
posted by marxchivist at 4:44 PM on May 21, 2010


When I grow up, I want to be a internet fraud detective too!
posted by vac2003 at 4:45 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh, I thought the quotes from the N'week blog were from an interview, but looking again it looks they are all comments. I guess the writer really did read the threads.

Did she say here how much she got on paypal?
posted by amro at 4:47 PM on May 21, 2010


In an exclusive interview with NEWSWEEK, she tells her story

Yeah, I think it was an interview.
posted by amro at 4:48 PM on May 21, 2010


Nah, she begged off on the job interview. Looks like she spoke to Newsweek... the article mentions her voice cracking.

Great, now I'm going to tear up again.
posted by m@f at 4:48 PM on May 21, 2010


I sort of like the idea of Fark people (Farkers, I guess?) and MeFites sitting around and comparing their historical highlights, like some kind of intersite summit meeting, or that scene in the School Reunion episode of Doctor Who where Rose and Sarah Jane are trying to one-up each other about the monsters they've seen:

"Kaycee Nicole!"
"Nutsack chair guy!"
"Russian sex traffickers!"
"UFO streetlight!"
"Givewell!"

Also, from the Fark thread: "Ashton Kutcher doesn't care about Russian people." I thought that was kind of funny. Kind of.
posted by maqsarian at 4:51 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


"
- IFDS,S#9 and pals are set for a few days with food/beer. Do I have that right?
"

YES

"

I might be wrong. This might bust the door on a whole range of illicit activities. I'll admit to being wrong in advance if that is the case on a followup. However, I do think if there are problems that arise from the *ahem* unwanted attention, I think alot of people have a responsibility to alleviate them.
"

the attention is not unwanted, if you're talking about us spending time with them and warning them about the sketchiness of the situation, they are rather happy about it. And happy to be hanging out in NYC (oh, to be 20 ish again)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:57 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just in case there are any other Las Vegans lurking on MetaFilter:

Impromptu Meetup with Fake tonight at Dino's in Las Vegas at 10ish (or whatever time he gets into town).

Yes, I'm asking you to meet me at dive bar in Las Vegas late at night, but I promise that I won't sell you into sex slavery. :)
posted by Jacqueline at 4:58 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


(oh, to be 20 ish again)

you're 24. stfu.
posted by desjardins at 5:03 PM on May 21, 2010 [51 favorites]


(oh, to be 20 ish again)

Newsweek article says you're 24. How much more 20ish can it possibly get?
posted by Nothing... and like it at 5:03 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Ashton Kutcher doesn't care about Russian people."

Fuckin' Ashton Kutcher. I coulda been a hero too.
posted by amro at 5:04 PM on May 21, 2010


Ha! Jinx!
posted by Nothing... and like it at 5:05 PM on May 21, 2010


Previously unheralded decent human crawls from Farkian swamp, sheds fins, grows appendage.
posted by fire&wings at 5:07 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I saw the AskMe thread yesterday and though, well shit, this can't end well.

Thanks for proving me wrong.

I want to favorite MetaFilter and everyone on it.
posted by lekvar at 5:07 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, I'm asking you to meet me at dive bar in Las Vegas late at night, but I promise that I won't sell you into sex slavery.

worst pickup line ever
posted by found missing at 5:10 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


GQ(?!)
posted by dhartung at 5:14 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


maqsarian: "747

"Kaycee Nicole!"
"Nutsack chair guy!"
"Russian sex traffickers!"
"UFO streetlight!"
"Givewell!"

"

Plus that chick who locked herself in her room. That's one of ours!
posted by Bonzai at 5:16 PM on May 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


This is beyond viral and in to HeLa territory. GQ? Gizmodo? The INQ?
posted by QIbHom at 5:22 PM on May 21, 2010


I want to favorite MetaFilter and everyone on it.

Way seconded.
posted by Gordafarin at 5:24 PM on May 21, 2010


I did a phone interview with the guy from Newsweek. He spelled my last name wrong but that's cool.

Re: Money. I got a LOT of money on paypal. I am not sure how much. A little more than 4,000 by now.

Also money otherwise via moneygram and a couple of mefites who dropped some off in person (fuq is helping a little, so is ocherdraco). Which is great.

The money we have spent so far on food, computer equipment so K can use her laptop to talk to her family/friends, entrance to the Empire State Building (surprisingly pricey) is quickly approaching $800. After about one day. Crazy, I know. That was pretty much all the money/credit we had available.

The money from PayPal will mostly be in my bank account soon and that will be incredibly helpful. I have no clue how much money we will need and for what--flying them back to Russia? Back to DC? Feeding and entertaining them for the rest of the summer? None of it?

So that's the money situation. If it is vague, it is because I am completely out of it and need a nap.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:30 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Newsweek article says you're 24. How much more 20ish can it possibly get?"

Oh, I meant aroudn 20, like 18-21. To me that's really different from 24.

Aaaaanyway.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:33 PM on May 21, 2010


Some years from now you're going to find that as funny as I do right now.
posted by found missing at 5:35 PM on May 21, 2010 [76 favorites]


Didn't scody pay for the Empire State Building? In any case, I'm sure you're doing the right thing but now that Newsweek's seen fit to blab about your finances, a few people have been mentioning it to us, just fyi.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:38 PM on May 21, 2010


First: I didn't get to follow this in real time. I have read both threads now and I'm impressed that so much can be done over such vast distances. When I was born most rural people didn't have electricity in their homes and didn't have telephones either. Now someone in Nowhere, Wyoming can help a friend in need in DC in a timely fashion. The technology sometimes boggles my old brain. The response by people that have never met each other gives me a very warm feeling. Thank you all for being my idea of decent human beings.

Second: A thought occurred to me that DARPA might just want to do a case study on this, to augment the Balloon Search game they had a short while ago.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 5:38 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh wow. I didn't realize that San Diego is a border city. I mean, I know, I've been there, but it didn't sink in.

I kinda want to throw up.

I'm going to sleep so if you don't hear back from me for a while that's why.

I have gotten hundreds of emails/mefimails/texts/paypal notifications so if I haven't responded, please give me time and I will try my best.

Thank you. I am amazed by your generosity and a little embarrassed that the author of that Newsweek thing spoke about me crying because INTERNET DETECTIVES DON'T CRY
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:38 PM on May 21, 2010 [38 favorites]


Oh, I meant aroudn 20, like 18-21. To me that's really different from 24.

Oh my god that is adorable.
posted by elizardbits at 5:39 PM on May 21, 2010 [19 favorites]


(but really we do cry, you all are the best)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:39 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


The fine line between 20-ish and 20-something...
posted by nickmark at 5:40 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the Newsweek article's comments:
Posted By: cortex (May 21, 2010 at 8:21 PM)

If you read the Metafilter entries carefully you will see that there is no evidence that sex-trafficking or the Russian Mob were involved. These were just two young girls that wanted to go out to a NYC nightclub, and two hundred hysterical chatroom users trying to stop them.
I'm going to assume this is not our cortex, because I really can't see him referring to everybody here as "hysterical chatroom users".
posted by maqsarian at 5:40 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


That comment maqsarian quotes seems almost malicious, making it out to be from cortex. Stay classy, internet.
posted by Phire at 5:42 PM on May 21, 2010


I'm going to assume this is not our cortex, because I really can't see him referring to everybody here as "hysterical chatroom users".

Bingo!
posted by Balonious Assault at 5:44 PM on May 21, 2010 [12 favorites]


Oh, I meant around 20, like 18-21. To me that's really different from 24.

Heehee. And internet detective/hero and adorable!
posted by grapesaresour at 5:44 PM on May 21, 2010


Flagged that cortex comment as abuse in newsweek. Nowhere to explain why, though.
posted by found missing at 5:45 PM on May 21, 2010


I left a counter-comment at Newsweek.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:46 PM on May 21, 2010


Yeah, that's obviously not me. I clicked the "report abuse" button on the comment. Not sure I'm thrilled about signing up over there just to say "no, I'm the real Captain Kirk", but I'll go ahead and do that if it doesn't disappear I guess.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:47 PM on May 21, 2010


*breathes sigh of relief*
posted by gomichild at 5:48 PM on May 21, 2010


I flagged it as abuse, but I'm a bit disappointed that you think of us as hysterical chatroom users.
posted by found missing at 5:48 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Balonious Assault: Bingo!

Please, don't.

I mefi-mailed cortex about that Newsweek comment, and flagged it as abuse.
posted by zennie at 5:51 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I clearly didn't preview.
posted by zennie at 5:51 PM on May 21, 2010


I'm going to assume this is not our cortex, because I really can't see him referring to everybody here as "hysterical chatroom users".

Bingo!


If you're implying what I think you are, I don't think there's any reason to jump to conclusions about the poster of that comment. If you're not, I apologize.
posted by maqsarian at 5:52 PM on May 21, 2010


Oh, I didn't preview either.
posted by maqsarian at 5:53 PM on May 21, 2010


I'm going to assume this is not our cortex

I'm pretty sure that was a malicious use of his name. I'm pissed.
posted by pjern at 5:56 PM on May 21, 2010


I was thinking more about that psycho that posted the bizzaro-world schizophrenic anti-cortex screed a few weeks ago.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:56 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Great story, great ending, good job all!
posted by fixedgear at 5:56 PM on May 21, 2010


The Newsweek comment cortex was probably that "why does everyone worship cortex?" dude. Unless a nefarious network of cortex enemies has arisen from the bowels of the internet to rise up and wash over us all.
posted by haveanicesummer at 5:57 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dumbacher!
posted by fixedgear at 5:59 PM on May 21, 2010


I flagged it as malicious - though I do lovingly think of Metafilter as hysterical chatroom users.
posted by m@f at 6:01 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Posted By: cortex (May 21, 2010 at 8:21 PM)

If you read the Metafilter entries carefully you will see that there is no evidence that sex-trafficking or the Russian Mob were involved. These were just two young girls that wanted to go out to a NYC nightclub, and two hundred hysterical chatroom users trying to stop them.


Wow, that's fucked up.

It's been interesting to me to see how people describe Metafilter from the outside, looking in. Obviously, they don't get this place at all, which is fine by me but still interesting.

I fully realized this when I saw one of the early media pickups of the story, and there was a lot of talk about "Wow, interesting story...If it's not fake" and "that would take a lot of $5 signups to fake". I was thinking this was funny because the $5 signups would be peanuts for this kind of publicity, by far it would be the easiest part. I know almost all of these usernames like neighbors. It would be like if there were a crisis in my neighborhood and some Johnny-come-lately tried to convince me that ALL of my long-time neighbors were in on it, playing their parts without a single error. Between all of our major players in this, there's decades of activity on the site, thousands and thousands of comments, and people with different personalities, interests, participation styles, communication with the mods, etc.

Anyway, I know I'm not telling anyone here anything they don't already know. I just wanted to say (like many others already have) how special this place is compared to ANY other community of this size that I know of on the whole wide interwebs, because I found myself reasoning this all out and during that process realizing how unique my experience here is.

tl;dr version: Get your Gawker of my fucking Schmoopy.
posted by rollbiz at 6:03 PM on May 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


>>The Newsweek comment cortex was probably that "why does everyone worship cortex?" dude.

He is with the Russian mob too
posted by lampshade at 6:04 PM on May 21, 2010


"Didn't scody pay for the Empire State Building? "

Uh, I did not notice any tickets? I think scody paypal'd some money which is in the pay pal fund. If that's what you mean. A LOT A LOT ofdifferent people sent money, like ten dollars here, five here.

I have receipts for everything and pictures of us like, hanging in the Empire State Building so I guess if this starts to seem really sketchy on my part I will start scanning the receipts and posting them.

There is a limit to what I will and won't post in order to prove who I am and what I'm doing. I am not the most private person (hahahahaha) but these young women really do deserve privacy and not to have their business splashed all over the internet any more than it already is.

So. (That's not really just a response to you jessamyn, but just to the whole situation.)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:05 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I, myself, am not worried about how the money gets spent. This is a one-off. Everyone is too exhausted for keeping track of every penny, and I got what I wanted, which was to be a minute part of the story.
posted by QIbHom at 6:07 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I doubt any of us here need a public accounting. That would be kind of crass to even suggest. People sent you money -- it's yours. (I hope that's how everyone here feels, anyway)
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:08 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I, myself, am not worried about how the money gets spent. This is a one-off. Everyone is too exhausted for keeping track of every penny, and I got what I wanted, which was to be a minute part of the story.

This. It's sent. It's gone. It wasn't much anyway. Do with it whatever you like, for them or to cover your own losses or just because you went way out on a limb.
posted by rollbiz at 6:09 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Didn't scody pay for the Empire State Building? In any case, I'm sure you're doing the right thing but now that Newsweek's seen fit to blab about your finances, a few people have been mentioning it to us, just fyi.

I interpreted that comment as meaning that scody sent the monetary equivalent of a few Empire State Building tickets (which are like $20 each or something) to the PayPal address. Could be wrong though.

Anyway I can't speak for the rest of the people who sent money, but I personally don't care what IFDS,S#9 does with the money I sent, and I consider that she's already done the right thing at this point. I assumed that helping out K & S was going to cost money, and it sounded like IFDS,S#9 didn't exactly have tons of cash lying around, so I sent some. But at this point it's up to her to decide what to do with it and I'm not going to second-guess any of the decisions she makes on that front, because I'm not the one picked them up off of the bus and brought them to my apartment.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:10 PM on May 21, 2010 [13 favorites]


I guess if this starts to seem really sketchy on my part I will start scanning the receipts and posting them.

Given the number of people involved - both in person and online - I don't think a line item accounting is necessary to prove authenticity. If someone really wants a receipt, then they should ask for it.
posted by lampshade at 6:10 PM on May 21, 2010


these young women really do deserve privacy and not to have their business splashed all over the internet any more than it already is.


This. I am proud to have been able to help, but I don't, and won't ever require an accounting or proof of the good intentions of people I trust- which is damn near everyone here.
posted by pjern at 6:12 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Didn't scody pay for the Empire State Building?

I had no idea he (or she) was that well off, or that old. Damn.
posted by pjern at 6:14 PM on May 21, 2010 [24 favorites]


I interpreted that comment as meaning that scody sent the monetary equivalent of a few Empire State Building tickets (which are like $20 each or something) to the PayPal address.

Yeah, that's exactly it. I tried to figure out how much a couple of admissions would cost, then rounded up to add a slice or two of pizza (though it's possible my calculations were a little low, because the last time I lived in the NYC metro area it was the first Bush administration). No worries about accounting on my end, either.
posted by scody at 6:14 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had no idea he (or she) was that well off, or that old. Damn.

And that's The Widow Moneybags to you, sir! I SAID GOOD DAY
posted by scody at 6:16 PM on May 21, 2010 [53 favorites]


What I gave through PayPal is ifds#9's to spend on whatever, if she's willing to go this far out on a limb to help people out, I trust she's not going to turn around and take advantage of my $20.
posted by desjardins at 6:18 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


If it had been the real cortex commenting on the Newsweek blog, we would have been "two hundred hysterical Community Blog users." Sheesh, fake-cortex can't even get what this place is right.

I too don't give a damn about the money, I didn't give any more than I felt I could afford to give away, since I, well...gave it away. Use it to have fun with the Russian ladies or use it for a taxi to one of the multiple job interviews this deal is going to net you.

However, if this resolves itself to the point where K & S are somewhat settled in a safe place, I want pictures!
posted by marxchivist at 6:19 PM on May 21, 2010


: Oh wow. I didn't realize that San Diego is a border city. I mean, I know, I've been there, but it didn't sink in.

I kinda want to throw up.


I was trying not to think about that earlier. It also gave me bad vibes when it was mentioned that the girls were supposed to be here for a relatively short time. Whatever was going on, the averted bad situation keeps seeming (to my non-professional eye) less like a downward spiral and more like a drop-off-the-earth scenario.
posted by zennie at 6:19 PM on May 21, 2010


I sent $ under the assumption that internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 will do whatever the hell she wants with it. I will not require proof that she did.
posted by found missing at 6:20 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]




I want pictures!

I mean pictures of ya'll hanging out at the Empire State Building. Not pictures of the receipts. The hell with that.
posted by marxchivist at 6:22 PM on May 21, 2010


I checked the "gift" thingie on paypal, and that's what it was. It's a freely given, no-strings-attached gift. As far as I'm concerned, it belongs to ifds9, and she can do with it whatever she sees fit. If anyone has a problem with that they can memail me, so I can tell them in private to fuck themselves.
posted by craichead at 6:24 PM on May 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


I guess if this starts to seem really sketchy on my part I will start scanning the receipts and posting them.

If this becomes an issue here, I will leave MetaFilter. I can say that with the very real expectation that this will never happn.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:33 PM on May 21, 2010 [16 favorites]


It's hardly necessary, but nthing that ifdssn9 can do whatever she likes with my money, no accounting required, and that anyone who starts questioning her intentions or veracity regarding this (and I really strongly doubt that anyone will) is a dick.
posted by maqsarian at 6:41 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


What craichead said. I checked "gift" too. I feel like ifds#9's own awesome acts of generosity were/are, in a tiny part, proxies for those of us too far to do anything useful, and PayPal was, for me, a proxy for a hug.
posted by catlet at 6:45 PM on May 21, 2010


but I personally don't care what IFDS,S#9 does with the money I sent

This. I don't thing anyone (important at least) thinks you are doing anything that even resides on the same street as sketchy.

And on preview what Astro Zombie just said.
posted by grapesaresour at 6:46 PM on May 21, 2010


I guess if this starts to seem really sketchy on my part I will start scanning the receipts and posting them.

Not at all necessary. I think I just get some random commenters asking about stuff sometimes. I've been telling folks you're the real deal and I'm AOK with how everything's been working out so far.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:47 PM on May 21, 2010


I also joined MetaFilter after occasional lurking because of this thread. I am thrilled to see the We no longer urgently need a lawyer, it is pretty much under control. Thank you! comment too. Fingers still crossed for these ladies, but I am so impressed by everything that has happened so far.
posted by galadriel at 6:49 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


think, not thing.
posted by grapesaresour at 6:49 PM on May 21, 2010


It'll be interesting to check the Infodump when all of this has settled down a bit, and see how big of a bump in signups this has caused, and how many of the new people stick around.
posted by maqsarian at 6:54 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Does anything still need money thrown at it? I'd like to throw some money at someone, but I've lost track of where it'd be best to send it now.

This stuff's moving pretty fast, still.
posted by Ms. Saint at 6:57 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are three money areas that I see now

1. IFDS's NYC fund
2. the "send fake to NYC" fund
3. the "help loquacious in the hospital" fund [other thread, see gman]

I know we're a little shy of a plane ticket for fake, though only just, and a few MeFites have offered to make up the difference, so he'll get to NYC in any case. IFDS seems set for now, though who knows how long this whole thing is going to last, and I'm not sure what is up with loquacious, though I know gman was also going to be working on something for klangklangston as well.

People just have to make their own best decisions I think at this point and/or sit tight to see what the next point of need will be.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:01 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


How about the "Make ThePinkSuperhero A Millionaire" fund? Anybody? Anybody?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:02 PM on May 21, 2010 [13 favorites]


What a great story. Someone should post it to Metafilt... SHIT!
posted by MegoSteve at 7:02 PM on May 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


stormygrey has a Western Union fund going too. It is listed upthread a ways. Just search for her uid. I sent my bit to IFDS via PP.
posted by lampshade at 7:04 PM on May 21, 2010


We got you that audition for The Apprentice! Don't blame us that you didn't bother to go!
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:07 PM on May 21, 2010


lampshade, I think that stormygrey has already headed out to wire money to IFDS:DS9. She did a great job arranging the wires.

That was for the "Getting money from PayPal is hard, need cash now" fund.
posted by QIbHom at 7:10 PM on May 21, 2010


I should really hang out with MeFi more often. You guys are great!

Smiling a big schmoopy smile...
posted by MetaGrrrl at 7:11 PM on May 21, 2010


ThePinkSuperhero: "818How about the "Make ThePinkSuperhero A Millionaire" fund? Anybody? Anybody"

That sir is a disgusting and blatant attempt at pandering and I vow to spend as much time as it takes to find you and bring you to justice for what I can only assume are your many undiscovered scams and other crimes of a "bunko" nature.

If only I had the funds to properly pursue this noble goal.
posted by Bonzai at 7:12 PM on May 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


1. IFDS's NYC fund
2. the "send fake to NYC" fund
3. the "help loquacious in the hospital" fund [other thread, see gman]


Have any of these causes been recommended by GiveWell? TIA.
posted by mullacc at 7:19 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


We got you that audition for The Apprentice! Don't blame us that you didn't bother to go!

What. I demand details! And also red velvet cake.
posted by elizardbits at 7:22 PM on May 21, 2010


This whole thing is epic. Good work.
posted by OmieWise at 7:22 PM on May 21, 2010


on Buzzfeed
posted by anastasiav at 7:22 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


hysterical chatroom users

Ha, see MeFi is a girlzone!
posted by Asparagirl at 7:23 PM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


- media people are all over everyplace, so it would be useful to direct them appropriately and, to my mind, steer them away from the "Russian Girls Saved From Sex Slavery" angle.

I understand this completely but, honestly, there isn't a story without that angle. It'd be like "man bites dog" but staying away from the whole man-biting-dog angle.
posted by Justinian at 7:25 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really, getting thousands of dollars in small donations with strings attached would really suck; it's largely unfair to saddle the recipient with the responsibility of keeping track of it all and making sure that this $10 got spent in such-and-such a way, and that $20 got spent on such-and-such an event. Anyone who has such expectations of IFDS, please reconsider whether or not you really care that much.

What I sent to IFDS, I sent without strings attached. Anyone with the cojones to show up at a transportation hub to intercept two strangers, risking possible confrontation or trouble with the Russian mob, that's just someone who is "good people." While it wouldn't shock me if IFDS spent what I sent on these two strangers, I view my gift as a way for me to engage in my own lesser act of kindness. IFDS, use what I sent to pay your rent, or go get smashed, or give it to a homeless guy, or do whatever you see fit. Make damn sure you don't get a receipt, because I don't want to see it. What I sent was sent as a gift to you, and you are free to spend it as you see fit, on whatever you see as appropriate.

Anyone have a problem with that? :-)
posted by jgreco at 7:44 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


and the Mother Jones article
posted by Balonious Assault at 7:45 PM on May 21, 2010 [18 favorites]


I agree with jgreco: a gift is a gift or it isn't worth giving.
posted by Justinian at 7:45 PM on May 21, 2010

> Bingo, and others who are riding the "We actually don't know if any of this is true" bus [...] Every piece of hard evidence about the situation [...]
I don't want to diminish what everyone did, but, surely you have to admit that there are almost no hard facts at all involved in this story?

Things we actually "know" (assuming fake and the others aren't actively lying):
  • two girls came to DC expecting to get a certain job.
  • They were told they couldn't have that job, and asked to go to NYC where they could have another job.
  • That other job would have been a violation of their visa condidtions.
  • Fake freaked out about this.
  • Lots of people got involved, in various ways, which led to the cops and some MeFites meeting them on arrival in NYC and talking them out of going to the club.
Actually that last one isn't even right, is it? Were they persuaded not to go when they got to NYC, or were they persuaded by someone who phoned them while they were in transit? I'm unclear on that.

And at all times, the girls involved were acting entirely of their own free will, travelling unaccompanied and weren't coerced or prevented from changing their minds in any way? And the people they were supposed to meet in the bar haven't tried to contact them since?

Every interesting, exciting thing about this story is based on complete supposition: supposition from people with experience in this area, yes, but supposition. All the stuff about trafficking, imprisonment, slavery, prostitution, organised crime, threats to family overseas, big debts being owed, were just, well, imaginary, right?

We have no way of knowing that there's anything sleazy about the bar, and it's not even a strip club by any rational definition of that phrase. And all those posts saying "ah, but this is what the early stages of trafficking look like", display the kind of correlation-isn't-causation error that MeFi would normally come down on like a ton of bricks.

I'm just wondering, now that the smoke's cleared and everything's settled down, what we're actually left with.

And whether all these hundreds of posts taking for granted that the owners/operators of a certain bar are murderous, people-smuggling organised crime types could get MetaFilter into trouble.

Oh, and, what happens to the girls, now that we've notified the authorities that they're in violation of their visas?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:45 PM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


"I mean pictures of ya'll hanging out at the Empire State Building. Not pictures of the receipts. The hell with that."

I have the best picture of the two of them in the elevator, smiling and completely psyched, and in the background my husband is making the most OH MY GOD I WANT TO NAP face ever.

I sent that to my in-laws, they'll get a kick out of it.

I am reluctant to post pictures or send them out to too many people right now for privacy reasons, but if I get their permission at some point I will definitely do so.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:46 PM on May 21, 2010


Mother Jones
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 7:48 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a little late to the commenting party due to my overwhelming desire to lurk; but I wanted to thank Fake, IFDS et al for just generally being awesome folks through all this. Also, thanks to user 1 and MetaFilter for making this possible.

Good show Internet.
posted by heh3d at 7:49 PM on May 21, 2010


The Mother Jones article quotes a Jessamyn "the site's community manager." Ooohhh...new job title. Does that mean cortex has to get your coffee?
posted by marxchivist at 7:49 PM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


And the people they were supposed to meet in the bar haven't tried to contact them since?

This point is not true.

In talking to fake there are definitely a lot of details that have been left out [specific names of the other organizations involved, the names of dozens of people who have been spoken with, the corroboration of the NYPD and our friend in the State Department that this looked sketchy and unsafe] and I don't really feel that it's my place to lay them all out here, but while I think some of the ZOMG RUSSIAN MAFIA may be a little over the top, I don't think most of the authorities who were spoken with today disagreed that this was a sketchy situation that looked more like trafficking than any sort of legitimate job situation. You can personally decide what you want to about the whole thing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:52 PM on May 21, 2010 [22 favorites]


The Mother Jones article also has typos and and unnecessary commentary. I'm kind of disappointed in it.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:54 PM on May 21, 2010


"And at all times, the girls involved were acting entirely of their own free will, travelling unaccompanied and weren't coerced or prevented from changing their minds in any way? And the people they were supposed to meet in the bar haven't tried to contact them since?"


Not quite.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:56 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Newsweek faux-cortex comment was a less-funny gloss on shipbreaker's comment, above, which cortex zapped (multiply, it seems) from the other thread. shipbreaker, I hope this doesn't mean what it implies.
posted by dhartung at 7:56 PM on May 21, 2010


Does anyone "in the know" know if the two women have any idea how giant a crowd is now concerned about them?
posted by Ms. Saint at 7:57 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh man my name gets more and more butchered as time goes on.

Kathrine Gutierrez Hinds

is the correct spelling.



does anyone read the posts down here?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:03 PM on May 21, 2010 [15 favorites]


* two girls came to DC expecting to get a certain job.
* They were told they couldn't have that job, and asked to go to NYC where they could have another job.
* That other job would have been a violation of their visa condidtions.
* Fake freaked out about this.
* Lots of people got involved, in various ways, which led to the cops and some MeFites meeting them on arrival in NYC and talking them out of going to the club.

[...] And at all times, the girls involved were acting entirely of their own free will, travelling unaccompanied and weren't coerced or prevented from changing their minds in any way? And the people they were supposed to meet in the bar haven't tried to contact them since?

Every interesting, exciting thing about this story is based on complete supposition: supposition from people with experience in this area, yes, but supposition. All the stuff about trafficking, imprisonment, slavery, prostitution, organised crime, threats to family overseas, big debts being owed, were just, well, imaginary, right?


You missed the part in the Newsweek article where the Aloha "travel agency" attempted to get the girls to fly to San Diego instead. A totally legitimate move, no doubt, given the well-known plethora of hipster hookah bars in that particular border city that are in desperate need of Russian hostesses.
posted by scody at 8:03 PM on May 21, 2010 [12 favorites]


does anyone read the posts down here?

I would wager hundreds, and growing.
posted by Miko at 8:04 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Does anyone "in the know" know if the two women have any idea how giant a crowd is now concerned about them?"

I told them about the money, about all of the emails, I don't think they "get" it completely but then again, neither do I, I have no idea how many people sent money, I have no idea how many people sent information or help, it's so constant and there's so much assistance from every angle, via text, email, phone...it was non-stop from the time I posted that I had them with me until this afternoon when I finally unplugged a little.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:05 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


From Mother Jones: What happened to Reetz's friend is practically a textbook case of how human traffickers ensnare young women. But it's what happened next that makes the story worth telling.


This part felt a little icky. Is the human trafficking that happens everyday not something worth talking about?
posted by Abbril at 8:05 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


> I don't think most of the authorities who were spoken with today disagreed that this was a sketchy situation that looked more like trafficking than any sort of legitimate job situation.

Nice double negative. But that's what I said. Supposition, from people with experience in the area, but only supposition.

> Not quite.

Which bits are "not quite"?

I guess I can see how this is going to proceed though. Anything I ask about, you're going to say certain details need to stay confidential, and mutter darkly that if I only knew what you knew, I wouldn't be questioning this story.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:06 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


> You missed the part in the Newsweek article

Because I haven't read it. I'm only talking about what I read on MetaFilter.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:07 PM on May 21, 2010



>GQ(?!)


yeah, but in over two hours there's not a single comment there. No one cares what kind of shirt you wear, Fake.
posted by Some1 at 8:12 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I guess I can see how this is going to proceed though. Anything I ask about, you're going to say certain details need to stay confidential, and mutter darkly that if I only knew what you knew, I wouldn't be questioning this story.

It's fascinating that you apparently find it totally plausible that there's some nefarious, mod-led conspiracy to keep you in the dark, and yet the idea that these two girls could have been at risk for being trafficked is just the totally woo-woo crazy talk of a thousand hysterical ninnies.

Because I haven't read it. I'm only talking about what I read on MetaFilter.

Oh, I see! I didn't understand that you were just asking rhetorical questions in your little screed, and therefore I mistakenly thought you might be interested in some actual data, regardless of where said data could be found. My mistake. Carry on!
posted by scody at 8:12 PM on May 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


Because I haven't read it. I'm only talking about what I read on MetaFilter.

It's been posted here, too. Multiple times.
posted by rollbiz at 8:12 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nice double negative.

Thanks! This has been a long ass day and I'm totally exhausted.

if I only knew what you knew, I wouldn't be questioning this story.

I just don't want to go blabbing details that I'm unclear of and then have them wind up in print somewhere. My understanding is that K&S have been repeatedly called and pressured. Not just go to NY originally but also to go to San Diego. That the original group is still hassling them. And this is happening from two people who are supposedly their contacts via this Aloha group in the US, neither of whom they'd met before, at least one of whom speaks pretty bad English.

The women are afraid that there will be a problem with their visas if they don't do this and this is why we were looking for a lawyer originally. If you want specifics, I'll give you fake's number and you can call him and ask him for details and I'm sure he'll gladly share them with you as he did with me. Only he starts his job tomorrow and he's been a little busy. Email me and I'll pass on his phone number to you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:13 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


it's so constant and there's so much assistance from every angle,

Someone emailed me and asked me (and a bunch of other Mefites) to give you a break and take them sightseeing this weekend. Is that covered? Do you know about this request? I have no idea who the Mefite (?) is who sent me the email; I don't recognize the name.
posted by amro at 8:16 PM on May 21, 2010


It's fascinating that you apparently find it totally plausible that there's some nefarious, mod-led conspiracy to keep you in the dark, and yet the idea that these two girls could have been at risk for being trafficked is just the totally woo-woo crazy talk of a thousand hysterical ninnies.

The great thing about being skeptical about everything is that you never have to believe in anything!
posted by rollbiz at 8:16 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


AmbroseChapel, I don't think anyone was under the assumption that the things you listed were cold hard facts. It was more an understanding that the list documented possible, potential, or probable outcomes, and people made a reasonably-educated deduction based on the implications of the entire set of circumstances. And everything combined warranted immediate intervention, because it was much better to act and err on the side of safety rather than hold back any effort until the merest chance of a confirmation.

I mean, yeah, the girls are out $3k, but they're safe. The terms of their visas are in question, which is why they needed an immigration lawyer, but they're safe. Nobody "took for granted" that the owners of the lounge were complicit in this, but even if the whole situation turns out to be legitimate and just a big misunderstanding, we know they're safe and in the hands of people we can trust. And it's a lot easier to tie up the loose ends when we know where everybody is, who to contact, and how to hold people accountable.

Being skeptical is fine. So is applying critical thinking to any situation. But when things need to be done NOW and the consequences of inaction are high, sometimes we have to act on probability and/or gut instinct, especially in times where there is an immediate danger. I strongly believe this was one of those times.
posted by CancerMan at 8:19 PM on May 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


Also--please--everyone should know that fuq has been amazing.

He has been here with us non-stop since the police dropped us off on my stoop. Helping enormously with tour-guide stuff when I didn't feel well. Going out to get snacks. Hanging out with them and just being cool and friendly and way more outgoing than I have been able to be.

Also, he says that the police didn't menace or detain us (true, although they did follow us), but that they do shake hands way too hard.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:20 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I guess I can see how this is going to proceed though. Anything I ask about, you're going to say certain details need to stay confidential, and mutter darkly that if I only knew what you knew, I wouldn't be questioning this story."

Yes, good, then we don't have to do it. Their lives and my life are really none of your business. If you don't trust us, you don't.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:22 PM on May 21, 2010 [30 favorites]


AAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHH GOD DAMN WHY DOES MY LATEST JOB BLOCK METAFILTER I COULD HAVE BEEN LOGGING ON DURING THE DAY AND DOING SO MUCH MORE OVER THE PAST TWO DAYS GOD DAMN IT!!!

....Sorry. Just had to get that out.

Right: I can report in with two ideas on the "what do we do for jobs for everyone" front --

1. My roommate is Ukranian -- which, yes, I know is not Russian. But he got himself very quickly insinuated into the general pan-Eastern-European community here in New York (he launched an Eastern European film festival here in February -- and in the process dug up a New York LITHUANIAN community, which I didn't even know we HAD); I mentioned this all to him last night and he said he'll think about what kinds of connections he can think of for job leads/other resources. So let me know who to keep posted with ideas for them.

2. And as for YOU, IFDSno9 -- I know I'd given you the number of my temp agency once upon a time, but I'd be more than happy to give it to you again, and put in a personal recommendation for you, because DAMN. (Although, you do run the risk of being sent somewhere where MeFi is blocked during the day, but hey.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:24 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


>GQ(?!)

yeah, but in over two hours there's not a single comment there.No one cares what kind of shirt you wear, Fake.



Just for the record it's blue, tight, and it has a big red S on it, set in a yellow shield with a red outline. Looks damn good on him too.
posted by Balonious Assault at 8:24 PM on May 21, 2010 [17 favorites]


> You missed the part in the Newsweek article

Because I haven't read it. I'm only talking about what I read on MetaFilter.


You may also want to read the Diary of a Sex Slave series of articles linked to above. From the first article:

The most often cited numbers come from the U.S. State Department, which estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked for forced labor and sex worldwide each year -- and that 80 percent are women and girls. Most trafficked females, the department says, are exploited in commercial sex outlets.

...

It's relatively easy for traffickers to evade authorities at the checkpoints -- land, air or sea -- because women still don't realize at that point that they are being tricked.

"It's not like the movies where you open a trunk and you interview them and they tell you everything," said Lauren Mack, special-agent-in-charge with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego. "They aren't going to tell you they're victimized because they aren't -- yet."

posted by burnmp3s at 8:25 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Someone emailed me and asked me (and a bunch of other Mefites) to give you a break and take them sightseeing this weekend. Is that covered? Do you know about this request? I have no idea who the Mefite (?) is who sent me the email; I don't recognize the name."

It's ocherdraco, she's cool, I don't know what's going on with that really, we'll just see how it pans out but yeah she is great.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:26 PM on May 21, 2010


Everyone still questioning the whole situation should read the Mother Jones and Newsweek articles before asking questions. They answered most of my questions.
posted by Procloeon at 8:27 PM on May 21, 2010


Oh, and one last note -- I'm seeing the whole "posting receipts for the PayPal donations online" tangent take off here, and I think it may all be due to a simple misunderstanding -- I got the sense that when scody asked, "wait, didn't I pay for the Empire State Building," it wasn't a question of, "if you paid for it, what did you do with my money, then", it sounded more like, "Oh, no, I thought I did that, did I forget/did Paypal screw up/did some other thing happen and you had to shell out? Shit."

I think you have more than earned everyone's respect here, and it's all good. (and if there are a couple people who disagree with me on that score, I'd like to talk to them outside, please.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:27 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


AmbroseChapel, it seems like "what we're left with" (speaking as someone with no behind-the-scenes secret knowledge) is this:

1. The situation these women were faced with upon arriving in the US was fishy. (I take it that you must agree, the situation was definitely fishy even if we don't know with certainty whether anything bad was happening. Signs of fish were present.)

2. Fake posted broadly "this seems fishy as hell and my friends may not be able to see just how fishy it is; help me research this and hopefully convince them not to pursue this".

3. Lots of resources, many behind the scenes, come into play. Various kinds of speculation here or varying levels of plausibility. But more importantly I take it, State dept et al looking into this behind the scenes.

4. Someone manages to convey to the women that the situation is fishy. Not clear to me exactly what the specifics were here (eg, did the convincer tell the women directly that the Lux Lng is a strip club, or was that merely the women's summing-up of the gist of the conversation), but fair enough. They do not go to the meeting.

5. Happily, the women find a suitable host in IFDSSN9.

6. This buys them a little time and resources to figure out their next move -- with help from lawyer, government resources, etc, which is seriously none of our business and all of which is still up in the air.

So - what happened was a gut check, and the simple goal of "convince them not to meet the fishy-seeming contact, offer them a safe place for the moment" achieved. For all we know, the fishiness was illusory, and maybe there will be a followup here in a few days saying as much - it was all just a big misunderstanding. But from the situation they faced when they arrived, it seems totally reasonable to me that fake assessed the situation as seriously fishy, do not enter; and it also seems reasonable that when the friends were intending to go for it anyway, that he tried like hell to head off the meeting. And it seems reasonable for people who agreed with his gut-check to be glad that it worked, even though we're not certain that evil awaited them in the first place.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:28 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


display the kind of correlation-isn't-causation error

I think you mean to say "correlation isn't proof" here. Which is a valid concern, but not all "correlation = proof" errors are "correlation = causation" errors, and I don't see the latter happening here.</pedant>

Oh, and, what happens to the girls, now that we've notified the authorities that they're in violation of their visas?

What are you afraid might happen? That they might get sent back to their families in Russia? It may not be what the women had hoped for, but I wouldn't see this as a horrible outcome.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:28 PM on May 21, 2010


It's ocherdraco, she's cool, I don't know what's going on with that really, we'll just see how it pans out but yeah she is great.

Ah, okay! I suck at remembering people's real life names.
posted by amro at 8:28 PM on May 21, 2010


From the Mother Jones article: "Now he's headed for Las Vegas, where another MetaFilter user is putting him up."

Actually, the coworkers of a MetaFilter user, but I suppose after this I should get them gift memberships as a thank you. :)
posted by Jacqueline at 8:29 PM on May 21, 2010


We have no way of knowing that there's anything sleazy about the bar, and it's not even a strip club by any rational definition of that phrase.

There is certainly stripping going on at that bar, at least occasionally, and, as mentioned in another comment that I can't find at the moment, it is likely that Lounge Lux was not the "switch" in this bait and switch ploy, but rather the "bait" -- a job at this nice-looking club leads down the slippery slope.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:32 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


rollbiz The great thing about being skeptical about everything is that you never have to believe in anything!

I believe in one fake, one internet detective fraud lady and the Holy Ask.
posted by mlis at 8:32 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


cortex: "... 'no, I'm the real Captain Kirk'..."

No shit? OMG, I had no idea! Are you familiar with the song?
posted by mwhybark at 8:36 PM on May 21, 2010


I got the sense that when scody asked, "wait, didn't I pay for the Empire State Building,"

for the record, I didn't actually ask. But I totally agree that whomever asked (jessamyn, I think? too lazy to check at this exact moment) was asking totally in a fraternal spirit of "hey, admission to the Empire State Building is covered, right?".

posted by scody at 8:36 PM on May 21, 2010


We have no way of knowing that there's anything sleazy about the bar, and it's not even a strip club by any rational definition of that phrase. And all those posts saying "ah, but this is what the early stages of trafficking look like", display the kind of correlation-isn't-causation error that MeFi would normally come down on like a ton of bricks.

Statistical analysis is not appropriate for every fuckin' scenario the world throws at you. In this case, the operating alarm bell is "whoops, change of plans, can you meet us at midnight in a different city?" which if every statistician fell for shit like that the profession would be annihilated over the course of a few decades due to simple evolutionary pressures.
posted by furiousthought at 8:45 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Money quote from Mother Jones:
The women paid their money, and were offered positions as lifeguards in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

But then things started getting weird. On the eve of the trip, Reetz says, the job offer was rescinded, and Aloha replaced it with an intermediate one, which didn't pan out either. "Then they told them, 'Just fly to the US and we'll mail you an offer," Reetz recalls.

Which was ridiculous, of course; the women insisted that Aloha send their offer by email instead. But when they arrived in Washington, DC, and checked their inboxes: nothing. They called Aloha and were given a phone number for a guy named George. No last name.
If that doesn't sound sketchy as hell to you, combined with the midnight nightclub meeting, you are a pretty naive person. There is no fucking way I would countenance such a plan for my daughter, I can tell you.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:48 PM on May 21, 2010 [32 favorites]


From the Mother Jones article:

The women—really just girls, 18 and 20—tried calling George
(the contact). When he bothered to pick up, he spoke Russian poorly. Kseniya called Reetz and asked if he would call George on their behalf. Reetz did so, and discovered that George didn't speak much English, either.

Did MJ get that right? Not much English or Russian. These guys were not trying to sound legit at all. Perhaps George was more than one person?
posted by Procloeon at 8:50 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


About the nightclub -- of course when you make your pitch to your target young women and get them sign a contract and maybe come back to the "temporary" apartment, you don't do it in your skeezy brothel-prison. You do it in a classy joint when they have a few complimentary drinks inside them. I can well believe that the Lux has nothing to do with this other than being a great venue where people feel relaxed.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:51 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't believe they tried to get them to fly to San Diego, regardless of whether it was attempted trafficking or some other form of scam or even just some bizarrely massive incompetence, they really went all in on this. Crazy.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:53 PM on May 21, 2010


Yeah, ifdssn9 was really exhausted from all the hosting and extra hooha, so I'm trying to round up local folks who can help entertain K and S some this weekend and give ifdssn9 a few hours to rest, etc. If anyone can, please memail me.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:56 PM on May 21, 2010


Did MJ get that right? Not much English or Russian. These guys were not trying to sound legit at all. Perhaps George was more than one person?

It's possible that "George" was purposely playing dumb to avoid answering any detailed questions. To the Russian victims, it's plausible that an American contact might not speak much Russian, and to concerned American friends it's plausible that someone involved with a Russian travel agency might not speak much English, so he might have tried to play both sides of the language barrier card.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:03 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Re: Money as Gifts

IFDS9, do you need any MORE no-strings-attached gift money? Because I could throw some your way, if throwing money at problems is still in style, here.
posted by audacity at 9:05 PM on May 21, 2010


I am getting more and more annoyed that every time I read a new article connected to this, there is some jackass making the same tired joke of "So are they hot? Hyuck hyuck."
posted by Windigo at 9:11 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Wait, I just had a brainstorm on the employment front -- 90% of my family lives on Cape Cod, which is another big spot for international summer jobs. Want me to contact them and see if anyone knows of anything? Or do they have to kind of stay put here in New York?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:12 PM on May 21, 2010


I am getting more and more annoyed that every time I read a new article connected to this, there is some jackass making the same tired joke of "So are they hot? Hyuck hyuck."

This is why I don't think their pictures should be posted, but it is not up to me.
posted by desjardins at 9:18 PM on May 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


Wait, I just had a brainstorm on the employment front -- 90% of my family lives on Cape Cod, which is another big spot for international summer jobs.

On this front, I have contacts in the shitty but above-the-board international job market, mostly camp work, in the Kent/New Milford CT area. MeMail me if this is worth pursuing for K & S.
posted by rollbiz at 9:21 PM on May 21, 2010


Man, I would be so intensely weirded out by all the attention.

I'm not sure talking to media was a good idea at this point, tbh.
posted by empath at 9:23 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I joined this site a couple years ago, but never got myself to actively post. I have read the whole thread, and this seems like a great community. I want to congratulate all of you, communities like this are very hard to find on the internet. I'm glad everything turned out well for Russian ladies.
posted by MetaLilly at 9:24 PM on May 21, 2010


I am getting more and more annoyed that every time I read a new article connected to this, there is some jackass making the same tired joke of "So are they hot? Hyuck hyuck."

QFT.
posted by KathrynT at 9:24 PM on May 21, 2010


KathrynT: I agree. Some people are just plain stupid. How can they make fun of such a delicate subject?
posted by MetaLilly at 9:26 PM on May 21, 2010


"IFDS9, do you need any MORE no-strings-attached gift money? Because I could throw some your way, if throwing money at problems is still in style, here."

Yes. We are shocked at how fast the money is going out the door for basic things. More money would be very helpful.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:27 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Yeah, ifdssn9 was really exhausted from all the hosting and extra hooha, so I'm trying to round up local folks who can help entertain K and S some this weekend and give ifdssn9 a few hours to rest, etc. If anyone can, please memail me."

Hey, it would be best if I know the people who are doing this--I hesitate to put them in a situation where it's one semi-stranger vouching for a complete stranger, you know?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:28 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


And whether all these hundreds of posts taking for granted that the owners/operators of a certain bar are murderous, people-smuggling organised crime types could get MetaFilter into trouble.

Also, this. There was a whole lot of flying off the deep end in both of these threads imo.

Saying that anyone saved the girls from sex trafficing is ridiculous. They were definitely in a sketchy situation, and it would definitely be a good idea to get the girls an immigration attorney and take a deep breath before meeting anyone else, but we don't KNOW that is what was going on, and if it's not true, throwing those kinds of accusations around can get people in trouble, esp now that it's been in Newsweek, etc.
posted by empath at 9:30 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another brainstorm on both the "possible above-the-board employment" and "possible alternate lodging" fronts --

The youth hostel at 103rd and Amsterdam. I'm a member of IYH, and I can see if they can maybe hook them up with a job.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:31 PM on May 21, 2010


I'm not sure talking to media was a good idea at this point, tbh.

This is all on a public website, I think the media was going to cover it anyway. Might as well get some actual details in there rather than just the speculation the rest of us have here. No one interviewed has been over the top in their accusations from what I've seen, just said it all looked sketchy and given some idea of why.
posted by shelleycat at 9:36 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Man, I would be so intensely weirded out by all the attention.

I'm not sure talking to media was a good idea at this point, tbh.
"

When we made the decision to talk to the media we thought the more light we shone on the creeps the better, maybe spook them, maybe get more people involved. We were/are at the point of desperation.

The attention is such a low priority now and they're not really thinking about it. They're posting pics to the russian version of facebook and smoking, like every other 20ish person would do in this situation.

Much of this attention has nothing to do with me or Fake talking to the media--but is just standard blogs linking the thread (as far as I can tell I am way out of the loop)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:37 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess it can be (is being) debated whether there is concern for the safety (previously or currently) for K&S. But can someone tell me why I shouldn't be worried for the safety of IFDSSN9, and possibly fake? I know we're not living in a screenplay, but won't there be someone up the chain who is out some $$ and ... well... have a bone to pick?

...am I wrong to post this? I have been inspired by this post (and something got in my damn eye), and I'm glad it seems that the worst? immediate problem? has been averted, but ... what now?
posted by segatakai at 9:39 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Something that MJ article sparked in me was the frustration that fake (and K and S) had in dealing with authorities - they mostly were working in the background and didn't appear to be helping.

What would be better in future cases? Are there shelters? Is there a better way to organize the info?

Now I realize we're not going to hear beans about the lounge or Aloha for some time - there's a need to gather evidence. That's fine. I just want to know what we can do for the next set of girls headed to the States.
posted by lysdexic at 9:40 PM on May 21, 2010


We do not know what's next, really.

I do not fear for my safety overly much but I didn't sleep last night out of fear for them, everyone, the general situation.

Sorry to be depressing.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:44 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Being skeptical is fine. So is applying critical thinking to any situation. But when things need to be done NOW and the consequences of inaction are high, sometimes we have to act on probability and/or gut instinct

I totally agree. And if these girls were in the same situation in my home town, I hope I would be as helpful and charitable as anyone involved.

I'm saying, now that things have calmed down, can we please assess whether the whole thing might have been an over-reaction?

I'm also asking again when were they persuaded not to go to the club. And I'm asking, if they were persuaded because they were told it was a strip club (whatever that means to a twenty-something Russian girl) they weren't even persuaded by the truth, were they?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:44 PM on May 21, 2010


Yes. We are shocked at how fast the money is going out the door for basic things. More money would be very helpful.

Wait, seriously? $4000 seems like quite sufficient money to support two out of town guests for ... a month? What you did is awesome and I don't particularly want a public stoning for questioning this, but really? Is it the lawyer that's costing so much?
posted by Mavri at 9:47 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think they have instant access to that 4K, Mavri.
posted by lysdexic at 9:51 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


>Wait, seriously? $4000 seems like quite sufficient money to support two out of town guests for ... a month?

The girls need jobs, transport to the locations of the jobs, seed money for housing, perhaps a lawyer. Not to mention IFDSS#9 and fuq putting their own needs to the side in order to play rescuers. And, at the moment, this is all happening in NYC, not exactly known for its low cost of living.

It seems to me that, folks cannot pump too much money into that little one-room apartment. Besides, at this point does it really seem like any "excess" money is going to be spent on hookers and blow?
posted by pi3832 at 9:57 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Wait, seriously? $4000 seems like quite sufficient money to support two out of town guests for ... a month? What you did is awesome and I don't particularly want a public stoning for questioning this, but really? Is it the lawyer that's costing so much?"

It's not that there are high fixed expenses, it's that I (personally) have absolutely zero idea what is going to happen.

Will they need apartment housing (might have to be pre-paid because they have no credit or income, plus a security deposit)? A 600 dollar place for 2 1/2 months with a one-month deposit is an outlay of about $2100.

A lawyer (still working out what the cost is on this one)? Plane tickets on short notice? Other transportation?

What if they want to fly back to Russia?

What if they have a medical problem and need a doctor?

And these are just big things. There are still groceries, transit tickets, a reasonable amount of sightseeing and going out, which adds up over time.

If something happens that money is ALL that they have. So while we're not begging on the streets, that money is their security.

There is also the important psychological factor that--one of the reasons they were wanting to go to San Diego is that they are out of money and feel like they REALLY need to work and were desperate to get a job because of that (among other things).

And about basic things--like I said, we have spent around 800 on this already in two days. A lot of that is one-time stuff, but still, we are looking at fully supporting two adults for...I have no idea how long.

So, I hope that makes sense. It's kinda hard to put into words the amount of uncertainty that this situation is generating.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:03 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


> It seems to me that, folks cannot pump too much money into that little one-room apartment.

Let's not get carried away here. The fact remains is that the Russian women need a lot of help, but they need it from people who can offer professional assistance and are not facing their own issues. It's awesome that ifdss9 is taking them in, but that should be for as short a term as is feasible.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:03 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


And about housing, they are perfectly welcome to stay here and they know that, but they might not want to, first because they're sharing a bed and a somewhat cramped apartment with strangers, and second because they might be much more comfortable in another neighborhood, closer to their job, or what have you.

There is also, and I'm kinda ashamed to talk about it because I hate that our finances are in such a mess, the fact that if they do stay in that room, we can't get a roommate, and if we don't have a roommate, we have almost no money for food (for us OR for them).
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:06 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's awesome that ifdss9 is taking them in, but that should be for as short a term as is feasible.

Well, whatever else, we agree about this, and I suspect that they do, too, because it's not super enjoyable to be living in very close quarters with people you don't know who are kinda in charge of you and have all your money.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:08 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aaaand people on Digg are complaining about the site formatting. We should switch to a more professional white background, guys.

There needs to be better hug emoticons for all of you guys. A <3 will have to do.
posted by NoraReed at 10:10 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I'm asking, if they were persuaded because they were told it was a strip club (whatever that means to a twenty-something Russian girl) they weren't even persuaded by the truth, were they?

Jesus, I'm too tired to do your reading for you again but outside of the fact that the meetup location might very well have no bearing on the job, did you miss the "ass-tacular" events or the pole-dancing nights and the rest of the indications that this wasn't just a nice restaurant/club?

What is your fight here? Why do you need to prove that experts and people on the ground know less than you do? I really don't get it.
posted by rollbiz at 10:10 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


...am I wrong to post this?

No. fake and IFDSSN9 showed enormous selflessness in making their roles in this-- as well as their names-- public. But! Assuming this sort of (awful) thing happens regularly, two girls wouldn't be such a blow to business as to make retaliation worth it. Plus, no mob names have been named. Occam's razor says the (alleged) traffickers will let this go rather than risk even greater media attention. It's really bizarre to see MeFi pop up on mainstream news outlets, but each one that reports on this is probably making fake and ISDSSN9 safer.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:11 PM on May 21, 2010


I may have missed it upthread, but what's the plan/timeline for getting fake to NYC? Especially as he just started a job? It seems like having him there could help the situation, since he's less a stranger than ifds.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:12 PM on May 21, 2010


>It's awesome that ifdss9 is taking them in, but that should be for as short a term as is feasible.

The donations are going to be coming in for an even shorter term. They've probably already peaked. Saying "$4000 should be plenty!" is just going to make them taper off even faster. And ifdss#9 is as good an avenue as any for directing funds to the girls at this point.

And money = options. More options are a good thing, so more money is a good thing.
posted by pi3832 at 10:12 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


"And money = options. More options are a good thing, so more money is a good thing."

Yes, I should have just waited for you to summarize! :)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:16 PM on May 21, 2010


AmbroseChapel: I'm also asking again when were they persuaded not to go to the club. And I'm asking, if they were persuaded because they were told it was a strip club (whatever that means to a twenty-something Russian girl) they weren't even persuaded by the truth, were they?

I'm asking why you're so invested in when and how these "twenty-something Russian girl[s]" made their decisions, and why that makes a difference.
posted by dogrose at 10:17 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, who here who as actually given a gift is worried about where the money is going? If you have, take it up with IFDS or the mods. If you haven't...Don't.

Sorry, but it's killing me to see IDFS have to defend her spending on top of everything else she's dealing with. When this came up earlier, a number of people who actually threw down dough said that we didn't care about accounting. Do we need to keep discussing this?
posted by rollbiz at 10:18 PM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm not understanding some things here. Doctors? Rent? Site-seeing? In one way or another these girls were victims of a scam and need to make their way home. Wasn't this a short-term exchange program? Malev Hungarian has one-ways JFK-Moscow at $794/per person, and what do you have, like 4k? What am I not getting?
posted by gman at 10:18 PM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


If you want to see a seedier side of Lux Lounge than bingo described, the club has a Facebook page with pictures, some of which look extremely sketchy. I described and linked in my recent comment in the original thread. I'm not saying it shows definite human trafficking involvement, but it definitely shows a different side of the club than bingo described.

ifds,sn9, paypal donation on its way tonight. Thank you for your courage and willingness to risk your own safety to help others. It's really inspiring.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:20 PM on May 21, 2010


Malev Hungarian has one-ways JFK-Moscow at $794/per person, and what do you have, like 4k? What am I not getting?

That their needs are more complex than simply sticking them on a plane back to Russia tomorrow?
posted by scody at 10:22 PM on May 21, 2010 [15 favorites]


Technically these women have visa for several months (if they can get the employment sorted) and plane tickets home in July. Trying to figure out how they can live and work and whatever until then rather than sending them straight home is understandable, particularly since if given a choice between going home right now and going back to the dodgy people they'd probably do the latter. I also think that to some extent sightseeing etc is a given here, that's how Kathrine got them to give up on the 'hostess' position in the first place. Giving them options helps keep them safe at this point, plus I'm sure many of the people giving money were doing so with the idea that it would help these girls have the actual working holiday they planned rather than being shipped straight home.

I figure that anyone who wants to give money to help this cause in general but doesn't want to give it straight to Kathrine can donate to one of the many charities posted up thread. Anyone who has problems with what's being done with money they have already given can contact whoever they gave it to and will most likely be refunded. And everyone else can maybe stop fussing since they have no stake?
posted by shelleycat at 10:26 PM on May 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


gman and others: Is your money on the barrel-head? If not, what is your specific concern and why are you voicing it to everyone on Metafilter, the press, etc.? If so, let me know how much you gave and I'll be happy to divest you.
posted by rollbiz at 10:26 PM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


AmbroseChapel: I'm also asking again when were they persuaded not to go to the club. And I'm asking, if they were persuaded because they were told it was a strip club (whatever that means to a twenty-something Russian girl) they weren't even persuaded by the truth, were they?


From the Mother Jones article:

This story has a happy ending mainly because someone—and not even Reetz is quite sure who; he thinks there were more than one—managed to get to the women during their bus ride. He suspects maybe PolloMacho's friends
[US State Department btw], but several agencies had the women's phone numbers. (So did some of the Metafilterers, as you shall see.) All the authorities Reetz had spoken with had been deliberately vague about what, if anything, they planned to do about the situation, and Reetz feared the worst.


You may never know who exactly did what when and you are just going to have to deal with it.
posted by Procloeon at 10:26 PM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Will they need apartment housing (might have to be pre-paid because they have no credit or income, plus a security deposit)? A 600 dollar place for 2 1/2 months with a one-month deposit is an outlay of about $2100.

A lawyer (still working out what the cost is on this one)? Plane tickets on short notice? Other transportation?

What if they want to fly back to Russia?

What if they have a medical problem and need a doctor?

And these are just big things. There are still groceries, transit tickets, a reasonable amount of sightseeing and going out, which adds up over time.


Maybe this has already been mentioned but.....what are the odds that the girls are willing to return home (after we offer them some once in a lifetime spectacular sightseeing and hospitality along the way, of course)? The legal, housing, job, and transportation issues ARE enough to keep anyone up at night with worry, and a potential black financial hole. As much as I'd love to see a fairy tale ending where the girls get their job and 3 months here as promised, maybe that's asking too much given the circumstances. We're all cheerleading from the sidelines but the reality is that a few individuals (fake, initially, and now Katherine and her husband) have taken on a massive, ulcer-inducing amount of responsibility. I know the girls' return tickets are for July; if the carrier is a Western European or American one, I'm sure with a few news links and some well placed calls the dates could be changed without penalty as a kind, publicity-friendly favor. If we show them an amazing time (with an end date in mind); give them funds to replace what they realistically might have made here to take home, and then get them home where they are safe and not incurring thousands in expenses in a strange country with only internet "family" to watch over them, is that OK to think about?

I don't want to be the scrooge on this, but hearing the strain in Katherine's tale and the mindboggling logistics ahead, maybe that's an option to be considering at this point.

I bet we have MeFites who would show them a wonderful time in NYC, Philly, Baltimore, DC, wherever else they want to stop on the way back to the airport. It would still be a trip of a lifetime.
posted by availablelight at 10:26 PM on May 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


> but each one that reports on this is probably making fake and ISDSSN9 safer.

I don't know the ins and outs of Russian mobsters, but I don't think that anyone on MeFi has anything to worry about regarding backlash from them. Sad to say, but since this happened many Russian women have been taken in by the same scam. They (assuming there were bad guys) weren't out anything anyway because all of the costs were foisted on the women to begin with. Pretty nasty scheme.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:30 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


> I bet we have MeFites who would show them a wonderful time in NYC, Philly, Baltimore, DC, wherever else they want to stop on the way back to the airport. It would still be a trip of a lifetime.

That's really a best case scenario and I hope it plays out something just like it.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:31 PM on May 21, 2010


and, having published without previewing--it seems this has now been broached. But I hope it's clear it's being suggested--at least on my part--out of concern, and as an option that might be presented as equally attractive. We help them get home, but with meetups in major cities along the way, and with $ they otherwise would have earned--via jobs that might not have been so great, or left much time or money for actually seeing the country and meeting new people.
posted by availablelight at 10:34 PM on May 21, 2010


PS I am willing to help make this happen if the primary players are too exhasted at this point for another round of arrangements, and I bet others would step up as well.
posted by availablelight at 10:36 PM on May 21, 2010


gman and others: Is your money on the barrel-head? If not, what is your specific concern and why are you voicing it to everyone on Metafilter, the press, etc.?

I'm sharing my thoughts, as I would in any other thread on this site. While I undertstand that others are listening, it's the MeFi community that I'm speaking to.

If so, let me know how much you gave and I'll be happy to divest you.

Please don't patronize me.
posted by gman at 10:39 PM on May 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


Actually I would have thought that getting thee women self sufficient and in charge of their own lives as fast as possible would be the best case scenario at this point, for everyone involved. And the best way to do that is give them information and resources and options, then some space to sort everything out.
posted by shelleycat at 10:40 PM on May 21, 2010


> Is your money on the barrel-head? If not, what is your specific concern and why are you voicing it to everyone on Metafilter, the press, etc.? If so, let me know how much you gave and I'll be happy to divest you.

What is wrong with proposing alternate solutions that may in fact be as good as anything else? Their visas are going to expire anyway, and if they actually want to come back to the USA again and maybe put down more permanent roots here then they had better play by the system's rules and do what is expediently best. We're not talking about some American dream here, this is a temporary visa situation to begin with.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:44 PM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


it's killing me to see IDFS have to defend her spending on top of everything else she's dealing with. When this came up earlier, a number of people who actually threw down dough said that we didn't care about accounting.

As far as I can tell, it came up earlier simply because of a misunderstanding about tickets to the Empire State building, and then a bunch of people grabbed that ball - again, which arose out of simple miscommunication - and ran for the moral highground, dander and dudgeon both elevated to all-time highs, despite the fact that no one had attacked anyone's usage of the money.

Christ, people.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:45 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


And the best way to do that is give them information and resources and options, then some space to sort everything out.

We're on the same page. I just think one of the options offered should be, "tourist it up meta-style, collect your expected earnings, and then head home where you're not getting sketchy calls or wondering where you're going to sleep tomorrow."
posted by availablelight at 10:46 PM on May 21, 2010


For those of you who have be criticizing #9 for saying at age 24 "to be 20 ish again" there is an an enormous difference between 20 and 24.

Humans don't start to begin to think as adults until after puberty, around age 16 - before then they are mostly uncritical sponges for incorporating the wisdom or manipulation of their environment if treated right.

#9 at 24yo is an 8 year old adult while her charges are only 4 adult years old. Much older adults may have good advice for #9 and her charges but the difference between them and #9 is probably less than the difference between #9 and her charges.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 10:51 PM on May 21, 2010


MonkeySaltedNuts: "For those of you who have be criticizing #9 for saying at age 24 "to be 20 ish again" there is an an enormous difference between 20 and 24."

Pretty sure that was all jokes, dude.
posted by graventy at 10:56 PM on May 21, 2010


And I realise that you mean it in a caring way and in the spirit of hospitality but if someone offered that to me it would sound very much like 'parade you around a bunch of places so people can gawk, give you some money and a pat on the head then send you home like a good girl'. Patronising. Controlling. When the other option is to work and support myself and live my own life free of random internet strangers I'd go for the second. Kathrine has already had to dissuade them from leaving more than once because they want to work and be independent, telling them now that actually they need to leave because more random strangers said so isn't going to help. But then I hate being told what to do, am proud of being able to look after myself and I'm not American. The latter thing definitely colours how I see things in a way you guys might not expect (and I have no idea how a Russian person would react, probably differently again).

These women are grown ups, we don't get to tell them what to do.
posted by shelleycat at 10:56 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


despite the fact that no one had attacked anyone's usage of the money.

And despite the fact that I PAID FOR THE ENTIRE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING, and yet it retains the pathetic "Empire State Building" appellation rather than the infinitely snappier "Headquarters of Vast Empire of Scody, Inc." Who is being robbed here, sir? I ASK YOU WHO?
posted by scody at 10:58 PM on May 21, 2010 [15 favorites]


During this whole thing there has been a degree of skepticism, thank God. Some of it has gone overboard or become defensive, some bordered on rude but I haven't seen it quite cross that line. Good. (i read slowly and have scanned some of the later comments though.)

Skepticism is good. I haven't been at MeFi long, but I know that is one of the things you do well. I have been at in other web worlds longer, and I know enough to know that no one is (necessarily) who they say they are (no matter how long they have been around), but then that really means that everyone is exactly who they say they are because few of us are anything as much as we are what we wish we were.

I haven't sent Fake or Section 9 any money because I'm about tow spins away from my frozen pot pie all week cycle (It happen in my life; I've always gotten out of it before.), but what I'm going to say is exactly the same as if I were in a "let's try this $40 bottle again tonight" period (second from the highest I've ever reached) and had sent them a few hundred bucks, I promise, i know myself pretty well at least about this kind of thing.

The skeptics are all saying, "we don't know this was the mob," though they say it in various ways. Doesn't matter, people.

They're are probably a whole lot saying, "This IFDSS9 and Fake are playing us! It's all a hoax!!", even though they're keeping quiet, we know they're there. (Some of them are sneaking over from fark and such because being that way is cool; some are natives too though.) Doesn't matter, people.

This story isn't about the heroes (not to diminish Fake and IFDSS9 (nor S and K)), it's about the really, really great and admirable concern and commitments made by a ton and another ton of people. We care. You care. Hell and damnation, good on you, all of you. Even the ones who have only been watching. I admire you all.

So, damn it, please those who are still worried about your images, or concerned about your reputations for wisdom, stop. Even if this is a hoax and we all got duped (and I don't think it is. Not now.), it doesn't matter.

Look, even if these girls weren't headed into the hell that they may have, they were headed into a hell of one kind. Even the best that they could have gotten in America, without the MeFi intervention was not good. Several years ago, when I lived in DC, the WaPo did an article on the use of eastern European students as apartment and hotel life guards. That was the promise that was reneged! And it is enough of a hell that the papers reported the scam! The next step (night club hostess) is defended as only sketchy rather than evil. Maybe, but that sketchy is demeaning and ruining to a young girl when it isn't chosen.

And last, if it is a hoax? Well then - Bravo; Brava; clap, clap, clap. It has been worth at least half of the money I would have sent if I could have sent any. Really. Yeah, really. And as to the other half, I've made worse choices before. But since I sent none, I have nothing to complain about, and I don't hear those who have contributed complaining at all.

Thank you, Fake. Thank you, Section #9, for helping my friends I haven't met. :)
posted by Some1 at 11:01 PM on May 21, 2010 [12 favorites]


These women are grown ups, we don't get to tell them what to do

Easy with the projection. Once again, I'm not telling them what to do, or telling anyone else to tell them what to do--just suggesting another option, especially since jobs and housing are urgently needed and have not materialized. It may or may not be attractive to them or what they choose, but it is certainly realistic, potentially attractive, and doesn't require much more in the way of money or heroics. If you have any doubts about my intentions, you're happy to contact me via MeMail so I can disabuse you of the notion that I'm trying to be the boss of anyone.
posted by availablelight at 11:02 PM on May 21, 2010


> And despite the fact that I PAID FOR THE ENTIRE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING, and yet it retains the pathetic "Empire State Building" appellation rather than the infinitely snappier "Headquarters of Vast Empire of Scody, Inc."

I'm sorry about that, but there's a bridge out of Manhattan that we could probably negotiate the naming rights for...
posted by Burhanistan at 11:02 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, Scody, but you still have a lot to answer for after that incident with the huge monkey.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:04 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


I want to withdraw my remarks about Jessamyn and/or IFDSS#9 muttering darkly about things we wouldn't be allowed to know. That's not what's happening, although it looked like that to me for a moment, and I apologise for characterising it as such.

The legal aspect is still bothering me -- if you look at the main thread, it reads like this:
Q: My friend has been asked to go to the Lux Lounge at midnight and talk to some guy called George, what do you think?

A: Don't let them go! If they do, they will be imprisoned, beaten, raped, forced into prostitution and quite possibly murdered.
Does anyone on the staff of MetaFilter feel like defending that in court? There are large numbers of posts which proceed unquestioningly from the assumption that both Aloha and Lux are criminal enterprises.

I'm not sure I've penetrated the right levels of sarcasm to respond to this:
the Aloha "travel agency" attempted to get the girls to fly to San Diego instead. A totally legitimate move, no doubt, given the well-known plethora of hipster hookah bars in that particular border city that are in desperate need of Russian hostesses.
If San Diego does indeed have a Russian community and Russian bars and restaurants, does that mean we think it's more likely or less likely that Russian organised crime is involved?

Here's my thing. If someone's in snake country, and they get bitten by something which might have been a snake and might have been a rat, well, yes, let's treat it as a snake bite. But let's not do the due diligence, once they're safe. Let's see if it really was a snake.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 11:05 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


How do you propose we do that, AmbroseChapel? You're asking a lot of questions, but they sort of presuppose we have access to the answers. I'm not about to begin an investigation into a Brooklyn nightclub to see if it's actually run by the mob.

Did we overreact? I'm going to go with the professionals in combating sex trafficking, who consistently have behaved as though these concerns were valid and legitimate, and say, no, we did not overreact. Some people might have gotten emotional, or overly worried, or gave voice to their darkest imaginings, but people have a right to their emotional response. It's how they act on it that counts, and I can find no fault with the behavior exhibited here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:12 PM on May 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


AmbroseChapel, out of curiousity, did you see the pictures of Bottle Poppin Fridays at Lex Lounge that I posted in the individual thread? (Facebook page -- you might have to be a member to access.) The pics don't prove there was trafficking but the place definitely looks seedy and like it might possibly employ women to attract men that want sexual favors.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:13 PM on May 21, 2010


To make it clear, availablelight I know you don't mean badly. But there were a few of you starting to put very specific suggestions about how they should be going home and I wanted to show how that can come across to someone who doesn't know what this place is really like and doesn't have your background or assumptions. Getting more strident about how they have to go home is likely to push these women away plus I'm sure there is a shit load of stuff going on we know nothing about (e.g. lawyers etc) so lets stop with the making plans for them and give them some of that space I mentioned?
posted by shelleycat at 11:15 PM on May 21, 2010


Does anyone on the staff of MetaFilter feel like defending that in court

There's no need to defend that in court. I'm not sure what you mean here. Who would be taking MetaFilter or its members to court? For what?
posted by Miko at 11:17 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


AmbroseChapel: "If San Diego does indeed have a Russian community and Russian bars and restaurants, does that mean we think it's more likely or less likely that Russian organised crime is involved?"

Regardless of the Russian community, it's a well established fact that, yes, San Diego is indeed a Human Trafficking hub.
posted by boo_radley at 11:18 PM on May 21, 2010


whoops, I post too early, ha ha.

Anyway, if you acknowledge the fact that San Diego is a trafficking hub, it seems that one would keep potential victims out of San Diego.
posted by boo_radley at 11:21 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


AmbronseChapel: Here's my thing. If someone's in snake country, and they get bitten by something which might have been a snake and might have been a rat, well, yes, let's treat it as a snake bite. But let's not do the due diligence, once they're safe. Let's see if it really was a snake.

Your thing is your own business. What you're doing here is following the gurney into the ED and arguing the rat's case.

Srsly. Give it a rest.
posted by dogrose at 11:21 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


If San Diego does indeed have a Russian community and Russian bars and restaurants, does that mean we think it's more likely or less likely that Russian organised crime is involved?

I can't tell you off-hand how many Russian tea rooms there are in San Diego, but I can tell you it's a major border city with a significant sex trafficking trade. Now, given that the girls had first flown to the states for vague promises of "lifeguard" jobs in Virginia Beach, which then turned into "hostess" jobs in New York, which then turned into unnamed jobs 3000 miles away in San Diego (all being pitched by a fellow named "George" who didn't seem to speak either much English or Russian)... seriously? You think the question of whether this is legitimate hinges on there being a sufficient number of Russian restaurants in San Diego to meet the mobster demand for blini?

Members of federal and local law enforcement felt that the situation was close enough to a textbook case of trafficking to warrant stepping in. Besides a colorful metaphor involving snakes, what, precisely, makes you think you know something that everyone else doesn't?
posted by scody at 11:21 PM on May 21, 2010 [21 favorites]


You don't do innocent-until-proven guilty when you're trying to avoid crimes.
posted by furiousthought at 11:21 PM on May 21, 2010 [13 favorites]


Money sent. Wish I'd seen the thread sooner.

Kathrine G, you awesome and clever girl! Also, way to go rest of the team. :)
posted by lunit at 11:22 PM on May 21, 2010


> Thank you, Section #9, for helping my friends I haven't met. :)

Shhh! There is no Public Security Section 9!
posted by Disinter at 11:22 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


> AmbroseChapel, out of curiousity, did you see the pictures of Bottle Poppin Fridays at Lex Lounge

I've seen them. They show young people dancing, in ways that aren't the least bit shocking to the average young person in 2010.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 11:23 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Here's my thing. If someone's in snake country, and they get bitten by something which might have been a snake and might have been a rat, well, yes, let's treat it as a snake bite. But let's not do the due diligence, once they're safe. Let's see if it really was a snake.

None of us are in the position to make a confirmation if Lux Lounge and George and Aloha were part of a sex trafficking ring. However, the authorities who do have the ability to do so have been made aware of the situation, and appear to be actively investigating. Not only that, but they have shared that the actions taken have been the right ones.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:24 PM on May 21, 2010


When I meet you internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 I'm buying you drinks. In the meanwhile, I'm in the area if you have any needs or I can help in anyway. Just meMail me.
posted by Skygazer at 11:26 PM on May 21, 2010


oh, and that money I gave you, idfss9? Make a hat out of it, or an origami swan. It's yours.
posted by boo_radley at 11:26 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's see if it really was a snake

I actually don't think you have to. You treat it as a snake bite. Treat it, person heals. Was it a snake bite? We may never know, but the person is healed, and assuming the treatment itself isn't fatal, erring on the side of caution was the right thing to do.

If it happens in country in which it's known there are a ton of snakes and that they do bite people, what would be the point of pointing out the rare rat bite? Isn't the greater concern the frequency of snake bites and the constant risk of snakes?
posted by Miko at 11:28 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't think there is much worry about a libel case, or ruining a possible legitimate business operation (which I am thinking is your note: don't want to overeact and hurt a private business owner / incure slander / libel charges), since a legitimate business that could afford a lawyer to file a libel suit would probably not act as fucking shadily as Aloha has in the last 72 hours.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:28 PM on May 21, 2010


Speaking from a journalistic understanding of libel, these threads would not meet the criteria for establishing grounds for a libel suit.
posted by Miko at 11:31 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


> what, precisely, makes you think you know something that everyone else doesn't?

I never said anything like that. I don't know how you get that from what I'm writing. I want everyone to know more about this incident. I know what I actually know about it, and I'm saying we should try and separate that from all the weird movie-and-tv nonsense that's been spouted around here. I find it utterly bizarre that Newsweek is featuring this as a story in which, as plain as day, two young women have been rescued from human trafficking, when there's no evidence at all for any of it.

> Who would be taking MetaFilter or its members to court? For what?

The owners of those businesses. For defamation. Because there are posts on here which clearly say that they consider Aloha and the Lux club to be criminal enterprises (or fronts for criminal enterprises) which rape, imprison, abuse and murder helpless young women.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 11:32 PM on May 21, 2010


> since a legitimate business that could afford a lawyer to file a libel suit would probably not act as fucking shadily as Aloha has in the last 72 hours.

Just the name itself throws a red flag for me, not that I know any better. Variants of "Aloha Travel" are in really common usage in most of the 50 states and countries abroad. It's pretty easy for them to get lost in the crowd with a name like that.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:33 PM on May 21, 2010


> I actually don't think you have to. You treat it as a snake bite. Treat it, person heals. Was it a snake bite? We may never know, but the person is healed, and assuming the treatment itself isn't fatal, erring on the side of caution was the right thing to do.

As for tracking down and prosecuting the snake for it's crimes, let's leave that to the proper authorities. Snake authorities, who don't post to Metafilter beacause snakes can't type.
posted by Disinter at 11:33 PM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


> The owners of those businesses. For defamation. Because there are posts on here which clearly say that they consider Aloha and the Lux club to be criminal enterprises (or fronts for criminal enterprises) which rape, imprison, abuse and murder helpless young women.

Maybe, but in the actual legal system these businesses would first need to contact MeFi (via lawyers) with takedown letters. If Matt did not delete the comments then there would be legal grounds for further action. I think your argument there is a pretty dry well at this point.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:35 PM on May 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


> Snake authorities, who don't post to Metafilter beacause snakes can't type.

There's an app for that!
posted by Burhanistan at 11:36 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


The owners of those businesses. For defamation. Because there are posts on here which clearly say that they consider Aloha and the Lux club to be criminal enterprises (or fronts for criminal enterprises) which rape, imprison, abuse and murder helpless young women

Nah. They'd have to prove the statements were made with the express intent to damage the plaintiff and that people making the statements knew they were false. In this case, it would be super easy to disprove intent to damage, because any damage that happened would not be from intent, but secondary to efforts to prevent what was perceived as a greater harm. Also, they'd have to prove that someone in these threads said something they knew to be false and represented it as true.

It's ridiculously hard to sue for libel and win, and this case would fail badly on those two necessary conditions.
posted by Miko at 11:37 PM on May 21, 2010 [15 favorites]


Unless Aloha is this outfit (which the women could verify -- and my apologies if it has already been linked and discussed).
posted by Burhanistan at 11:37 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Q: My friend has been asked to go to the Lux Lounge at midnight and talk to some guy called George, what do you think?

A: Don't let them go! If they do, they will be imprisoned, beaten, raped, forced into prostitution and quite possibly murdered.

Does anyone on the staff of MetaFilter feel like defending that in court?


I'm not on the staff of Metafilter, but you are greatly simplifying what happened--both to Fake's friends and in the AskMe thread. Have you read the large number of posts above that explain why these circumstances are far more frightening than "My friend has been asked to go to the Lux Lounge at midnight and talk to some guy named George?"

I would have no problem describing this in court:
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my clients were promised safe and comfortable housing and a lifeguarding job in Virginia Beach, Virginia. They paid $3,000 for that, expecting to use their salaries to cover or even exceed that cost. Then, just days before their departure, they were told they would instead be working in Washington, DC. They demanded proof of this, and they demanded specifics, but then they arrived in the United States with none of the specifics they were promised. They were called by a man they had never met or communicated with, let alone heard of, who could barely speak either English or Russian. They were told to travel to a city they had never expected to see, for a job at a club they would never have considered working in (at least based on Exhibit A, the poster for Lux Lounge's ASS-TRAVAGANZA), at an hour far past what's most often considered appropriate for a job interview. They were asked to do this ASAP. As far as Aloha Travel knew, my clients were strangers in a strange land. As far as Aloha Travel knew, my clients had no information, no funds, and no one in this country to depend on, and thus would be forced to obey these orders. As far as Aloha Travel knew, my clients had no other options. Luckily for my clients, they knew a man named Fake.

Based on the evidence we'll show you today, I can't promise you my clients would be sold into sexual slavery. I can't promise you that they were victims of an organized crime syndicate. But I can tell you that over and over again, young women come to this country with promises of good work and good times and good opportunities, and instead find themselves trapped by circumstances remarkably similar to those my clients found themselves in. My clients, like many victims before them, could have followed their instructions and found their passports taken away, their promised jobs turn from lifeguarding to hostessing to stripping to prostitution. They would have arrived in New York without money or friends, and because of this they would have been at the mercy of whomever was waiting at Lux Lounge at midnight. Luckily for my clients, they weren't.
posted by sallybrown at 11:38 PM on May 21, 2010 [78 favorites]


we're a little shy of a plane ticket for fake

I have a code for a free JetBlue round trip from my previous year of travel with them. And JetBlue flies direct from Long Beach to JFK. It also expires in a couple months so I was unlikely to use it anyway.

fake, when you get settled in to LA, email me and I'll send along the flight coupon code.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:38 PM on May 21, 2010 [47 favorites]


For God's sake, AmbroseChapel, just leave it, will you. The situation is complicated enough without armchair quarterbacking.
posted by jokeefe at 11:39 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


San Diego here..... we have nothing I would call a "Russian community", and very few Russian restaurants.
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:39 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been following this thread for a few hours and ... wow. Just wow.

ifds,sn9, fake, and everyone else who helped are all awesome. I'll paypal over some change; I wish I could do more.
posted by Xany at 11:43 PM on May 21, 2010


I've been following the threads with great interest and lack of sleep, having receiving a phone call "out of the blue" from MeFite allkindsoftime on Thursday afternoon. We are one of the non-profit organizations listed above -- the Russian Community Life Center in Brooklyn (Brighton Beach).

I just want to encourage everyone that J Visas do allow students like K and S to work/travel for a few months, and then to return home. They should still be able to do this! We have been a sponsor in the past, and it's not very complicated even though there is some paperwork required. The key is that the approved kind of work must be VERY basic and unskilled -- cleaner, dishwasher, maid, camp assistant, etc. (perfect for the summer hospitality industry) -- and the employer has to specify dates, wages and housing arrangements. There are many, many reputable employers that count on these summer employees. I can't imagine how the "employment offer" for K and S passed the initial scrutiny, but that's a topic for another post.

For the record, Brooklyn/Brighton has a lot of positive qualities, despite the well-monitored presence of mafia types. They are vastly outnumbered by regular Russian-speaking immigrants who have settled here. My husband and I have lived and served here for almost 12 years, and have not knowingly crossed paths with any Russian mafia figures.

Anyway, we are available to help as needed, with prayers and appreciation for K and S and everyone involved in this team effort.
posted by LeslieRCLC at 11:45 PM on May 21, 2010 [67 favorites]


> I find it utterly bizarre that Newsweek is featuring this as a story in which, as plain as day, two young women have been rescued from human trafficking, when there's no evidence at all for any of it.

Do you honestly think that those members who have been putting some spare hours of their time into investigating the spaces were able to turn up hard evidence that these business were in fact involved in human trafficking in under 72 hours, but somehow had gone unnoticed by the people who monitor for human trafficking all the time?

There was enough evidence to suggest, and eventually convince, the women in question that they were better off staying away from those businesses. If you are holding out for a conviction or a verdict from a judge on this, chances are you are going to be waiting for a long time. And the final case that may be built out of this (if there is one) maybe just be one piece of a larger evidentiary case against an entire operation, so even if this leads to an arrest, chances are it might be via some tangential means.

There is a possibility that Lux is an unaffiliated business which was just acting as a meeting space, but I don't think they would really have a case, besides saying "nope we aren't, here look at our books."

As for Aloha, even if they aren't associated and are just purely incompetent, then they deserve to be known as a travel agency so bad they are indistinguishable from human traffickers.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:46 PM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


Look, AmbroseChapel, here's a post that exemplifies the position you're opposed to:

availablelight: "If you go through the thread and click on the links for the Lux Lounge, it's a sometime-strip joint, with soft-core ads, in Brighton Beach (a Russian mafia stronghold)--that they were asked to show up at, last minute after other jobs "fell through", at midnight, from Washington DC. This has so many red flags it's a marching color guard."

I don't think that's incriminating Lux or Aloha -- but it does gather up a bunch of facts and draws what I think is a reasonable conclusion from them: that it's a bad situation to get oneself into. Not that Lux is going to imprison them; but that some unknown person who may-or-may-not-be employed by Aloha is meeting them at Lux.

When I worked (briefly, ever so briefly) at a bar, I interviewed when the place was receiving, around 11 in the morning. Even if a strip club is hiring for hostesses -- a completely legitimate profession in a legitimate establishment -- it's weird to schedule an interview at midnight.
posted by boo_radley at 11:46 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Matt, awesome!
posted by jokeefe at 11:50 PM on May 21, 2010


> When I worked (briefly, ever so briefly) at a bar, I interviewed when the place was receiving, around 11 in the morning.

I used to catch a bus transfer across from a "gentleman's club" around 11 AM and the first shift of women would be waiting out on the steps for the manager to open up. Speculation, but it's likely that the person they were meeting at the Lux was working there but also working for other people involved in more nefarious business and he wasn't acting on behalf of Lux at all.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:50 PM on May 21, 2010


As for Aloha, even if they aren't associated and are just purely incompetent, then they deserve to be known as a travel agency so bad they are indistinguishable from human traffickers.

This is the thing that really seals the deal for me. If these guys are legitimate, and yet somehow manage through ignorance or incompetence to be running a business which exactly resembles a human trafficking operation in every discernible way, why do they deserve NOT to get called out for that fact?
posted by KathrynT at 11:53 PM on May 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Amidst all this squabbling I too would like to express how much I admire what IFDSSN9 and the rest of you have done. I too have sent money and don't care how it is spent, it is a gift.

Everything I saw done here on Metafilter on this and the other thread was executed with exceptional thought and care. Other internet communities have accomplished similar feats, but never as flawlessly as I saw here in the past few days. What I saw happen has inspired me to finally pay for an account here, as this has to be the most well-functioning and intelligent internet community I have ever witnessed.
posted by Disinter at 11:54 PM on May 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think some people are forgetting that it can take 3-5 business days to transfer money from Paypal to a bank account, and getting a Paypal debit card would probably take a couple of weeks. Also, IFDS is suddenly being flooded with donations from all over and I am just praying that Paypal doesn't find this suspicious and pull on her what they pulled on Matt last year and freeze the account.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:56 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Two weeks later, new signage at Lux Lounge-- AS SEEN IN NEWSWEEK!
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:57 PM on May 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


> I am just praying that Paypal doesn't find this suspicious and pull on her what they pulled on Matt last year and freeze the account.

That was another elephant bumbling about in the corner that I was afraid to mention.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:57 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


when there's no evidence at all for any of it.

AmbroseChapel, perhaps you'd like to contact pollomacho, then, and explain to him exactly how he, in his capacity at the U.S. Dept. of State trained to handle sex trafficking cases, had "no evidence" to act upon this and therefore, presumably, no business getting involved.
posted by scody at 11:59 PM on May 21, 2010 [17 favorites]


For anyone that's meeting up at Dino's here tonight, I'm the guy in the somafm shirt. Looking forward to buying fake a drink!
posted by Driph at 11:59 PM on May 21, 2010


AmbroseChapel-- One small thing I wanted to note, you've repeatedly said the threads accused them of being murderous. I could not find any references to murder in either thread, and only one person said "killed" and it was them chastising someone else for referring to the A-Team.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:03 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Welcome to MetaFilter, LeslieRCLC. Thanks for stopping by and adding some good information to the mix. RCLC sounds like a great resource; keep doing the good work you do.
posted by gemmy at 12:09 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh for fuck's sake. Hey, let's devolve in to petty squabbling now, shall we?
posted by desuetude at 12:12 AM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Las Vegas meetup is in progress at Peppercorn in the fireside lounge on Las Vegas blvd.
posted by fake at 12:23 AM on May 22, 2010


Hurray for Leslie from the Russian Community Life Center! Hopefully this is a connection that will get K and S some more options on the table, or at least help navigate the way.

Also: Aloha Travel Agency: Indistinguishable From Human Traffickers should be a freaking google result. I hope word of mouth will somehow get back to Russian women/parents.
posted by availablelight at 12:27 AM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


fake, you'll want to look at mathowie's offer about the plane ticket a little ways up.

And have fun in Vegas!
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:30 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aloha Travel Agency: Indistinguishable From Human Traffickers should be a freaking google result. I hope word of mouth will somehow get back to Russian women/parents.

They'll just change the name. Also, as I understand it "Aloha Travel Agency" is an overused name in any case.
posted by Disinter at 12:31 AM on May 22, 2010


Yep, we're all in the back corner of the fireside half of Peppermill... Vegas locals, come on by and say hi.
posted by Driph at 12:41 AM on May 22, 2010


Speaking as a snarky, jaded fuck, this whole story blew my mind. There are some really generous people here behind the handles. Well played, sirs and ma'ams.
posted by bardic at 12:56 AM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Congratulations to everyone who managed to help a couple of young women in what was (at best) an awkward and (at worst) extremely dangerous situtation.

Ambrose, gman, and co: You're starting to sound like the slashdot nerds who argued Hans Reiser was framed by his Russian wife's family so they could steal his children.
posted by rodgerd at 1:14 AM on May 22, 2010


>> it can take 3-5 business days to transfer money from Paypal to a bank account
>> Also, IFDS is suddenly being flooded with donations from all over and
>> I am just praying that Paypal doesn't find this suspicious and pull on her
>> what they pulled on Matt last year and freeze the account.


Yeah, that is always the big trick with PP. They always manage to muck up their own processes at the worst time. It would be good to get that money out of PP as soon as possible.
posted by lampshade at 1:23 AM on May 22, 2010


On the other hand, PP is way easier to send money internationally with than Western Union or the couple of alternatives I looked at, and the recipient gets more of it at the end. Agree that hopefully PP don't pull a fast one - at least IFDS has plenty of evidence (including a newsweek post!) to show where the money is coming from, and why.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:46 AM on May 22, 2010


I can hang out with them and (possibly) have them stay with me (will ask my mother when she wakes up). And we definitely have enough money for food and whatnot. I've memailed Ocherdraco.
posted by lolichka at 1:46 AM on May 22, 2010


An amazing thread.

I can't help thinking what a weirdly distorted view of America K and S are getting from all this: If you go to America, hundreds of people will care about your well being. Some will give you a place to stay and strangers will send you money. Your story will be told in the media.

I live in America and I know that this is not always so. These girls were very lucky in many ways.

You've got to hope their story doesn't inspire others to try to same thing.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:19 AM on May 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


I've been watching for a couple of days with breath baited. Good work all. I'm with the cash as hug proxy, hope it helps.

Incidentally, gman and others: Is your money on the barrel-head?

There's more MeFi care and generosity happening on MeTa at present, and gman is the last person to be called out about putting money where mouths are.

I love this community.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:55 AM on May 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Impromptu Las Vegas Meetup report: Unfortunately, we ran into a very loud, crowded, and smokey karaoke night at Dino's, so we changed locations to the Peppermill Lounge. Fortunately, Driph was still able to track us down via Twitter -- I hope we didn't lose anyone else along the way.

Fake, Driph, my coworkers Jim and Susanna, my husband Neal, and I had a nice chat over drinks and appetizers. The best part was trying to explain to Susanna exactly how it was that she had ended up with Fake as a houseguest for the night. (Her and Jim's involvement began when I wandered into his office after lunch and opened with, "I have a really weird favor to ask you..." Fortunately he'd already read the whole thread because it had popped up a couple times in his feed aggregator that morning, but Susanna wasn't filled in on the backstory until the meetup.)

Fake had never been to Las Vegas before, so after the meetup Neal and I gave him the 30-minute driving tour of the Strip before dropping him off at Jim and Susanna's for the night. He's driving the final leg to L.A. tomorrow.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:10 AM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, and Driph is a local too, so there are now at least two MeFites in Las Vegas interested in having a meetup if/when anyone from MetaFilter comes to town.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:19 AM on May 22, 2010


who wants the 1000th comment?
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:31 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Me me me!
posted by Jacqueline at 3:35 AM on May 22, 2010


YES.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:36 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Skepticism is healthy, yes, and I've asked my share of questions in this thread, but ultimately people like AmbroseChapel need to realize that there are things we simply don't/won't know, either because nobody knows the answer to them or because certain details are being withheld. To me, the only remaining point of miscommunication/confusion is how/when the girls decided not to meet their contact. From what I gather (and even fake seems unsure of this aspect of the story), someone from the State Dept. contacted them while they were on the bus. So comments like this:

I also think that to some extent sightseeing etc is a given here, that's how Kathrine got them to give up on the 'hostess' position in the first place.

are a bit off, because while Katherine offered to show them a good time in NYC, they were not persuaded by Katherine to give up on the 'hostess' position - if that were the case, they probably wouldn't have written to Fake, thanking him for saving their lives. I only point this out because I think it would be prudent to try to get a consistent and thorough accounting of what took place at some time - both to satisfy our curiosity and to provide fewer gaps for skeptics to poke at. At the same time, everyone should realize that more info will come out later on, that the story is still changing and evolving, and that there are ultimately going to be things that we, as commenters on a blog, are not going to know (who is George? etc.).

And finally, a request: would it possible to have some sort of new page set up (maybe the wiki could do this) that outlines events and also provides updates? As thing change and the story evolves, I'd like to stay abreast of the situation, but after 1,000 comments it becomes pretty difficult to do so. I realize this isn't the typical policy regarding long threads, but this isn't a typical story.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:43 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


(A)Ha(W)O, the wiki page on The Russian Incident has been up since last night.
posted by maqsarian at 3:52 AM on May 22, 2010


Holy cow. I do not think I have been this absorbed reading an internet discussion thread in over ten years. The last time I remember something like this was the Hellmouth discussion thread on Slashdot after the Columbine High School murders and there were hundreds of geeks with their testimonies about their horrific high school bullies.
posted by bukvich at 4:13 AM on May 22, 2010


Count me in as one of the new members that was tipped in by this thread. Amazing work idfs9 and fake and everyone else. This is the best possible use of the internets.
posted by jonbro at 4:16 AM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Didn't have time to check all the comments, but has the Newsweek blurb been posted yet?
posted by newpotato at 4:54 AM on May 22, 2010


Just to touch on the topic of libel, it's pretty difficult to successfully pin a libel claim on a user-generated website thanks to Section 230 of the CDA. More likely would be a subpoena for the identity of a user (or users) in order to pursue a user directly. That in turn would require that the individual's comments would have been sufficient, standing on their own, to pursue a libel case. It might not prevent someone with an axe to grind from being a nuisance, however.

It would be reasonable to be cautious and factual in what you say. It would be safe to say, for example, that the situation was highly suspicious, and that the members of this site acted rapidly to try to divert two women away from a meeting that could have been their introduction into an awful situation. It is not possible for us to know whether Lux is actually involved, or if the fellow they were meeting was actually engaged in this sort of business, but even if not, any downsides to diverting them appear minor when compared to what could have happened.

It's very easy to get all wound up in emotion with this sort of thing. Don't let that drive what you say.
posted by jgreco at 5:01 AM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


ifds,sn9 , do you mind sharing your field/line of work in case people with NYC contacts can help you out employment-wise? If not, that's cool too.
posted by booksherpa at 5:08 AM on May 22, 2010


Here's my thing. If someone's in snake country, and they get bitten by something which might have been a snake and might have been a rat, well, yes, let's treat it as a snake bite. But let's not do the due diligence, once they're safe. Let's see if it really was a snake.

Why? The NYPD and the State Department are involved. The principals have spoken to a lawyer and a number of agencies and non-profits who do this sort of thing on a daily basis. If Aloha and "George" are on the up and up, those are the people who can determine it. If K & S are pulling some kind of scam, those are the people who can figure it out. MetaFilter is a great place for people coming together to help someone get out of a bad situation and for helping them get in contact with someone who can help more. We* did that. It's also a great place for information about interest rates and digestive problems. It is not at all set up to investigate shady travel agencies with possible mob connections.

*I played my very important part by staring at the screen and worrying about the whole thing. I'm very proud.

posted by Dojie at 5:26 AM on May 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Here's my thing. If someone's in snake country, and they get bitten by something which might have been a snake and might have been a rat, well, yes, let's treat it as a snake bite. But let's not do the due diligence, once they're safe. Let's see if it really was a snake.

I think it's a valid point, except that bona fide law enforcement agencies, at least a couple of which appear to already be on the case, are better able to do this than the MetaFilter Detective Brigade is. Yes, it can be frustrating because the actual law enforcement agencies tend to keep quiet about ongoing investigations rather than giving every-10-second updates like the MDB would, but what do you suggest as the alternative? Even if we wanted to, how would the MDB go about determining with certainty whether "George" actually runs a prostitution ring, or is the manager of a legitimate business who simply has the rather eccentric practice of meeting with prospective employees at midnight? How would we go about determining whether Lux is actually related to anything going on, or was just selected as a public meeting place?

To continue your analogy, this is the point at which we call animal control and ask them to catch the animal in question, rather than trying to catch what is possibly a venomous snake (and possibly just a verminous rat) ourselves.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:42 AM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm kind of confused as to why the outside commentators find the formatting so hard to follow. It's just chronological order, OP marked with the sidebar. Is this something that I'd have to be a non-member to understand?

My version of the site has a professional white background, thankyouverymuch.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:09 AM on May 22, 2010


1. fake, internet fraud detection squad, and the rest: you are all heroes. ifds, I sent you a few bucks, and if you want to use it to just buy some goddamn chocolate when this is through, I support that wholeheartedly.

2. I agree that it's unfortunate that Lux may have been unfairly condemned in this ordeal. As a few people pointed out, it may well have been the "bait" in a bait-and-switch and not the "switch." However, the idea that since this could have been a legitimate operation, the people involved should have somehow behaved differently, seems preposterous to me.

3. I literally could not believe that someone involved had the handle internet fraud detective squad, station number 9. I assumed that the "We have them safe and sound" comment came from a newly-registered account to protect someone's identity until I clicked through to the user page and saw some previous comments. That is one of the greatest coincidences I've ever seen.
posted by danb at 6:24 AM on May 22, 2010


Law and Order: Metafilter Unit
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:25 AM on May 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I chose to send you money. Do whatever you want with it. I particularly liked the origami swan suggestion above.
posted by knapah at 6:31 AM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, this is absolutely incredible. Yall have successfully made me cry at 8 in the morning.

IFDS, Fake, and everyone who helped, you are amazing people. I'm sending out some internet love to all of you.
posted by SneakyArab at 6:32 AM on May 22, 2010


I'm kind of confused as to why the outside commentators find the formatting so hard to follow. It's just chronological order, OP marked with the sidebar. Is this something that I'd have to be a non-member to understand?

People used to threaded posts can have a tough time following a discussion where a comment and a response to it are separated by several unrelated comments and unattributed portions of comments are repeated so many times, sometimes long after the original comment. Even experienced MeFites sometimes get mixed up on who is talking to whom. See above the she-said/she-said kerfuffle about scody's/jessamyn's comments over the financing of the Empire State Building.
posted by Dojie at 6:41 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good morning all!

Unless someone tells me otherwise, I'm going to go ahead and contact both a) my family out on Cape Cod and b) the youth hostel on 103rd and Amsterdam (in New York) to explain the situation and see if either of them can offer any kind of potential legitimate job offers.

If the Cape Cod option becomes concrete, I also can offer copious advice about three different methods for getting from New York TO Cape Cod, the most expensive being a $200 plane ticket (the cheapest being a $20 Chinatown bus to Boston, transferring onto a $10-20 bus out to your chosen stop on the Cape.

I'll do that at about one pm Eastern Time, to give those who are closer to the ground and in the middle of things a chance to contact me and say "no, actually, don't do that, because they need to stay in New York/they have decided to go home/some other extenuating situation is in play".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:41 AM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


AskMe is the best part of MetaFilter (even if it is more prone to asking for advice about interest rates and/or digestive issues). Money paypalled to ifds9 to spend or save as she sees fit.
posted by headnsouth at 6:54 AM on May 22, 2010


It takes guts to do what Daniel, Kathrine and the other people who helped did. I didn't have that kind of courage.

A few years ago a friend from South-East Asia called me for help. Her cousin, who ran a travel agency in her homeland, had a client stranded in France. Could that person borrow a few hundred Euros from us in order to continue her trip? The story was not implausible, so we collected 800 Euros and my friend went to gave the money to the tourist. The next day, I asked her about the meeting, curious about tourists with such poor planning skills. Indeed, she had chatted a little bit with the tourist, a young woman, while the guy was waiting in the taxi. Uh, what guy? Some older man with a rough face who was traveling with her. Also, the tourist wasn't really a tourist, she was going to the UK to find work. And at first they were 2 women with the guy. They had entered the EU in Spain and the other woman had stayed there with other people. The "tourist" had looked happy.

I facepalmed, and explained to my friend was was probably really going on. She called her cousin, who told her that all this had been arranged by some guy named "Kenny" who was very eager that the young woman arrive in the UK. So a woman was cheerily on her way to a brothel, thanks to the 800 euros we had lent to mobsters, who had our names and addresses and who could give the cousin a hard time if their plans went wrong. My friend tried to call a police officer she knew but the phone number was wrong and she didn't know the officer's surname, so we couldn't find him in the directory. And as a foreigner caught in something a little scary, she wasn't too keen to go to the police. Just like in the Russian story, there was some remote possibility that everything was legit. The young woman hadn't looked coerced or scared, but very positive about her future. In any case she and her thuggish companion had a 24-hour head start so they were already in the UK. So we did nothing. In retrospect we could have at least called an association dealing with sex traffick victims, but it never occurred us to do this. The cousin sent the money back a few months later. I never knew what happened, but I did nothing and it still burns me.
posted by elgilito at 7:10 AM on May 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Agree that hopefully PP don't pull a fast one - at least IFDS has plenty of evidence (including a newsweek post!) to show where the money is coming from, and why.

AFAIK, the problem mefi had with Paypal last time around was because the money was specifically slated as charitable donations to participate in a raffle. In Paypalspeak a charitable donation is something that the donaters expect to deduct on their taxes. In order for this to happen, the organization with the paypal account is subject to utterly exhaustive scrutiny involving IRS documents and bank account history going back years and years and goddamn years and articles of incorporation and whatnot.

I am the AD of a nonprofit org, and I can tell you without any hesitation that using a paypal account as a legit and well-established nonprofit is a goddamn miserable fucking pain in the ass - not even for collecting donations, which we do not do, but for paying out consultants. As mefi is not a registered tax-exempt entity (uh, I assume) I can see why paypal would have all manner of hissy fits over the 100,000th user raffle, as I figure they decided we were engaged in some kind of massive tax fraud scheme or something.

tl;dr, since kathrine is collecting money on a personal account that is given as personal gifts, I see no reason for paypal to cause the same kind of trouble this time around, as long as she makes no claims to collecting this money for any kind of charity.

Fucking paypal. I closed the account the same day they finally approved it for use, over 3 months after the day I tried to open it. I can write company checks without a cavity search from the bank, thanks.
posted by elizardbits at 7:24 AM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


This was amazing. You - you know who you are - are amazing.

Great story.
posted by flippant at 7:35 AM on May 22, 2010


Fucking paypal. I closed the account the same day they finally approved it for use, over 3 months after the day I tried to open it. I can write company checks without a cavity search from the bank, thanks.

On May 10th my PayPal account was hacked. Two charges - instant deductions from my checking account totaling $300 - were made. I removed the bank account, filed a dispute, and waited. They fucking denied the claim. I appealed, and they revered the decision and are now refunding the money. I'm not re-linking the bank account, so I'm paying $1.50 to get a paper check. As soon as I get my money back I'm closing the account and I'll never use it again. I was one of those people who always said "I don't understand why people hate PayPal, I've never had a problem" until I had a problem. So, in short, double-fuck PayPal. Maybe I'll MeMail ifdss#9 and send her a paper check.
posted by fixedgear at 7:40 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you so much for reminding me why I wanted to be a part of mefi.
posted by waraw at 7:51 AM on May 22, 2010


I have been a lurker for well over 7 years. This is my first post.

I've known for a long time that Metafilter is a valuable and special place. These amazing threads only cement that view. I have been moved to post now because they have restored my faith in humanity. While we may get sidetracked in debating the minutia of this matter, the fact remains that a man in the middle of Wyoming armed only with an android phone called out for help. And this community sprang into action, selflessly and effectively. When I read that $4,000 had now been raised to help these women, I was moved to tears.

Let us not debate whether or not the selfless actions of wonderful people may have saved lives (as they well may have), they certainly preserved dignity and self-respect. More importantly, they demonstrated to some innocent visitors who found themselves in a new country, that there is a community that cares, and steps up when somebody asks for help.

Many years ago, while hitchhiking in New Zealand, I was picked up by a local family, who said they were happy to give me a lift. By the time we arrived at the next town, they insisted that I instead come home with them. They took me home, gave me a room and a bed, fed me wonderful homegrown food, and took me camping with them everywhere, showing me parts of the country the casual tourist would rarely see. I ended up staying with them for several weeks. These complete strangers were very proud of the place they lived, and it was important to them that visitors who came to see it were treated well and shown the true beauty of the place and its people. I never forgot this.

I live in a very poor part of Africa where most people live on a dollar a day. You may wonder what people here do in an emergency, when their kid is sick and they have no money for the hospital? They rely on their "social capital" - their long cultivated and supported network of family, neighbors, friends, community, and coworkers. These networks are real and powerful. I have seen many times that they are the difference between life and death.

Thank you to everybody who helped with this. This is one of the best things the internet can do.
posted by MacChimpman at 8:09 AM on May 22, 2010 [112 favorites]


I haven't been MeFi-ing much, but am so glad to have been referenced back here during this story. You guys rock. I <3>
Pollomacho, I'd love to buy you a drink sometime. At a dc meetup, perhaps? (except I wouldn't be the only person with that idea, so you'd be very, very drunk.)
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:29 AM on May 22, 2010


(that said I *heart* my collective internet friends.)
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:29 AM on May 22, 2010


I had a thought about the whole "is or is not Aloha legit" question --

As I understand it, since the girls signed up, the main contact at Aloha has all been coming through one single guy named "George." Now -- okay, maybe it's possible that Aloha ITSELF may be legit, but we don't know how legit GEORGE is. As in, even if Aloha is legit, maybe George has himself a nice little side deal and he once in a while skims off a couple of the legitimate contracts Aloha sets up and does something a little different with them for his own self. From the sounds of things, he was acting odd.

So those of us defending Aloha - take a look at George separately.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:33 AM on May 22, 2010


Jeez, saw the original AskMe, but missed this MeTa. (Obviously, I've not been on point re: Mefi!)
posted by klangklangston at 8:44 AM on May 22, 2010


Couple things:

1-KG, I just sent along some cash. I don't care what you do with it. Get K/S some drinks. Put it towards your rent. Buy a plate of beans. None of us care. You've done an amazing thing, and we're just looking to help you.

2-I've never been this proud to call myself a mefite, and I've been very proud to do it in the past. You guys are all incredible.
posted by nevercalm at 8:46 AM on May 22, 2010


Welcome to Metafilter, MacChipman. What a lovely story. :)

I'm quite sure nobody reads alllll the way down here and besides, wouldn't be interested in another iteration of OMG U GUYZ R TEH AWESUM!!!!111! - yet, you are in fact, and I'm hard pressed to think of a recent event that has made me smile more. Cheers to fake and our darling Internet Fraud Detective Squad Stn #9. Money and hugs wending their way eastward.
posted by arachnid at 8:50 AM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


ONTD Political
posted by dhartung at 8:50 AM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


wow. well done.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:55 AM on May 22, 2010


I just memailed ifds9 to this effect, but I'm going to volunteer to be point person on this front (until someone tells me not to):

It looks like one aspect of this situation is that these girls came her to work, but right now Aloha is the only one giving them any job offers of any kind. I would like to change that. I'm checking out a couple ideas (I've asked my family on Cape Cod, my roommate said the Jersey Shore may be another option, I'm calling the Youth Hostel here in New York) to see what kind of job resources would be open to them. The way things sound, the only offer since they got here was another Aloha deal in San Diego, and they don't want to go but have no other offers. I'd like to say "here are more legit offers."

So I can collect ideas on that front. You got job ideas, memail me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 AM on May 22, 2010


I would like to join the chorus saying that my (small) gift to IFDS was no-strings-attached, and she is free to spend (or not spend) it absolutely any way she would like.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:15 AM on May 22, 2010


I have nothing to add. nthing everything because I feel like i have to say something.
posted by jragon at 9:17 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


elgilito, it is really easy to second guess yourself later. I've done the easy thing rather than what would have been the right thing more than once. I suspect most of us have. That is why IFDS and the others are so awesome. Plus they've graciously allowed us to help.

All we can do is to do better next time.
posted by QIbHom at 9:37 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


elgilito, you made the best decision you could with the information you had. In my book, that means that you are not at fault.

As for the doubters who have shown up in these threads, metafilter, as a community, has made the best choices it could with the information it had. That information includes the huge social context of similar situations. Waiting for further information before acting would have been irresponsible.

I've been in tears several times over this thread for the past few days. Thank you, metafilter, for using your superpowers for good.
posted by bilabial at 9:51 AM on May 22, 2010


EmpressCallipygos, on the job offer front - see this post by Leslie from the Russian Community Life Center. They are experienced in helping people on J visa's find jobs. You might want to start with them.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:54 AM on May 22, 2010


From the YCombinator link there is an interesting comment from someone who apparently lives in Brighton Beach:
I have lived in the general area of what is now the Lux bar for over 10 years. I see this sort of thing happen every single summer in New York City. "J1" is what people call these girls and the story goes like this:

They come here on work sponsorships which are almost never really there (they often dont know that). Then one of three things happens -- or all. They end up working in the restaurant business as hostesses, bus "boy" positions, eventually waitresses. They start sleeping with some guy who takes them around, pays for everything, and possibly provides a place to live. If they want to make real money, they start dancing (strip or go-go). At the end of the summer their Visa expires and I'd say about 70% leave and 30% stay.

So... it probably wouldn't have been sex trafficking, this is all way too dramatized. The J1 girls who come here are often offered to dance to make more money. And they either refuse and struggle to find a job in some crappy lounge or restaurant or they go dance and make pretty decent money. I'm not saying that this is a wonderful situation, it makes me hate living in this city, but its so common and a far cry from being locked in a room to be sex slaves.

I known some of these girls that are still here and still dance, and know a few that are still here and still work at lounges. Last year, a friend of mine was walking her dog and met two J1 students on the board walk at Brighton Beach sitting on their luggage. They had to make the same trip from somewhere to New York for a job. Of course the job wasn't really there. My friend let the couple stay in her living room for most of the summer and they eventually found a job at a restaurant.

Living in Brooklyn, this is a fact of live. Its nice that these particular girls have gotten some help, but starting this week "the J1s are coming" and this sort of thing is going to happen a thousand times over in the next couple of weeks to a month. Non of it was surprising to read... which, I guess, is pretty depressing considering that I live in the middle of it.
I would disagree with his assertion that it is "probably not trafficking." If you put someone in a situation where the only way they can make money is by stripping ... that's pretty much the definition. Interesting anecdote nonetheless.
posted by geoff. at 10:06 AM on May 22, 2010 [38 favorites]


If your offer is "a job" with "George" that "falls through" a few times and then finally "we found something for you" so "take a bus or a plane to this whole other city" and you're given a few drinks and offered pole dancing and cigar humping... I mean, whether or not there are ultimately beatings and pimps, then you are still a goddamn plague-ridden cockroach on the ass of a diarrheal donkey and it's not okay.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:32 AM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I would disagree with his assertion that it is "probably not trafficking."

Agreed; not only is the line somewhat fuzzy there, but we know that this sort of marginal J1 activity and the more controlling forms of trafficking are proceeding in parallel; the evidence that one kind of activity is happening doesn't constitute evidence that the other activity is NOT also happening.
posted by Miko at 10:33 AM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I work with students on J-1 and F-1 visas. In fact, I'm the person that provides the offer letters for admission to our program and the funding letters that help them meet their financial guarantee to obtain their visas. In a legitimate organization, these students have a very high financial guarantee to meet to get the visa, and once in the country they are kept on an incredibly short leash. They can enter the country no more than 10 days before the job begins, they are immediately taken to enroll for social security numbers, and their addresses, funding situation and enrollment in our program are monitored every semester. I write piles of letters for these students to take to the people monitoring them, to take every time they leave the country, to take every year to renew their visas. They're tracked in national databases called Sevis and Glacier. There's no way they could enter the country to be research assistants for us, and then wander off half-way through a semester to take a food service job in another country, without there being piles of problems. They have to work the job the sponsoring agency put on the funding letter to obtain the visa.

So, to me, the idea that the sponsoring agency would pull the job that got these girls the visa not once but twice, AND somehow set them up for a job application in a bar at midnight, AND tell them to fly across the country for some other nebulous job, blew my mind. Seriously. Being aware of the amount of man-hours and paper work that goes into monitoring students on legitimate J-1 visas sponsored by a legitimate organization, I can't help but think these young women were in an INCREDIBLY not-legitimate situation.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:34 AM on May 22, 2010 [65 favorites]


They start sleeping with some guy who takes them around, pays for everything, and possibly provides a place to live.

That was pretty much what I was assuming about the midnight meetup in the bar: it was probably less about being locked up in the gimp room, and more about putting the girls into a situation of vulnerability, whereby they'd be more likely to trust & depend on the person meeting them in the bar.

Imagine being a foreigner showing up in NYC at night, at almost no notice & without a hotel room booked, probably more that a bit confused & disorientated. You'd jump at your 'friendly' countryman's offer of sleeping on his couch for a night or two, with hardly a second's thought, as long as he comes across as even slightly friendly & trustworthy.

Meanwhile, he has a captive audience for whatever total bullshit he wants to spin about the job market, as well as setting himself up as the benefactor who is owed a favour or two for his generosity towards the girls.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:34 AM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


The flight to San Diego was the clincher for me. No one was flying me around for jobs at age 18; I wasn't worth it.

Or on reflection, I guess I was, but my immediate economic potential was left under-exploited.
posted by palliser at 11:11 AM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm still a little confused about how Aloha and George and the VA Beach sponsor are connected. It sounded like what happened was that the girls were told the sponsor had rescinded the offer, but that perhaps the offer was not actually rescinded because they contacted the girls and told them NOT to got to NYC because they were supposed to be in VA Beach.

I am wondering who exactly told them the offer was rescinded, and how "George" became the new US contact to replace the sponsor (who I am assuming would have been the contact). As frighteningly easy as it would have been for that "sponsor" trade-off to occur, is there any way Aloha wouldn't be directly involved?
posted by zennie at 11:21 AM on May 22, 2010


"I would disagree with his assertion that it is "probably not trafficking." If you put someone in a situation where the only way they can make money is by stripping ... that's pretty much the definition."

Agreed. I really doubt K&S came over to the U.S. to be strippers. And with circumstantial evidence piling up it is becoming obvious that's what was going on. San Diego has no Russian community I know of, but we do have lots of strip clubs. And with one of the largest undocumented worker populations in the country I *seriously* doubt there would have been less sleazy jobs here for the girls.

At a minimum these girls would have ended up living on the street or with a scum bag that wanted them to strip to pay rent, with things getting much much worse from there. Now they are being (literally in my opinion) saved. Good work MetaFilter.
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:22 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is anyone organizing another Western Union or other money transfer? I don't think I can send $50 but I can chip in $10, and I'm sure cash on hand would be more immediately helpful than Paypal-3-to-4-business-days.
posted by galadriel at 11:31 AM on May 22, 2010


Hey the internet is 24 hours but we are taking a break now and the girls are going to explore New York. Everything is cool.
posted by fuq at 12:10 PM on May 22, 2010


I like you, Metafilter.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:15 PM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is anyone organizing another Western Union or other money transfer?

There was a WU transfer that happened last night. stormygrey was coordinating it. Check upthread for more info. I am not sure whether a second one is planned.
posted by lampshade at 12:17 PM on May 22, 2010


Well, that's it, PayPal has frozen my account.

Hopefully I can still get some of the money out.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:20 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hell, I just paypal-ed you money. Hope you can get it out.
posted by questionsandanchors at 12:22 PM on May 22, 2010


Sometime in the last couple of years, I read an article (possibly in the NYT) about foreign students/young people who come to the U.S. on what was probably a J1 visa. The article focused on a group of students working at a camp or amusement park, and the friendships they made with American kids doing the same jobs. They lived in dorms, they got paychecks, they practiced their English, and on their days off they went places with their American friends who had cars. It sounds like the complete opposite of what was happening here.
posted by rtha at 12:23 PM on May 22, 2010


Well, that's it, PayPal has frozen my account.

Ouch....that sux. Sorry to hear that.
posted by lampshade at 12:26 PM on May 22, 2010


Since we are currently trying to raise / fund things for atleast 3+ mefites right now, can we get someone with experience to writeup a wiki / howto / solution for easily transferring money to other mefites, in order to prevent the auto freezing of paypal, and even better, a non paypal solution.

At this point, I almost think something like "Metafilter Cares", 501c3 non profit, that can take donations and distribute checks / direct deposits to members and organizations in need, would be the best and most legitimate way to set something like this up.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:28 PM on May 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


I just want to second or third the notion that a plane ride home should at least be one of the serious options these girls should consider. It's not about spending the MeFi-donated money - spend it however you want really - but IFDS noted that the girls' parents and boyfriends are "VERY worried", and the girls are clearly a bit over their heads financially, socially, legally, left adrift by the horrible travel agency (it's not clear US lawyers can easily help here either, since jurisdictionally-speaking Aloha is outside of the US). Not to mention the understandable strain on IFDS and her SO. Well, it just seems like a prudent option to cut their losses and at least head back to a safe and reliable situation in Russia until their next visit to the US.
posted by naju at 12:32 PM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


We can still get money into the paypal account, but we just can't get it out.

This cancelled two of the transfers I had been doing to my bank account so there is about $2600 in there now that I can't get out until I fix this.

Other developments in the situation are really very bad. I can't go into details, but they are in a very tough spot.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:33 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


rtha, good point. Here's an article about 2008 changes to the rules for H-2B and J-1 visa holders that hit the hospitality industry pretty hard. Needless to say, the point of the program is anything but supporting the skin industry.
posted by dhartung at 12:35 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I dislike you, Paypal.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:37 PM on May 22, 2010 [15 favorites]


Other developments in the situation are really very bad. I can't go into details, but they are in a very tough spot.

DISLIKE. Stay in touch with any evolving needs, and not to be maternal or Stewart Smalley-like, but make sure you're taking care of yourself as well.
posted by availablelight at 12:48 PM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, that's it, PayPal has frozen my account.

Hopefully I can still get some of the money out.



Fuuuuck. I meant to email last night and tell you to keep moving cash out of paypal as it comes it to avoid everything getting locked in.

Keep us posted on how paypal resolves this. If they refuse to unfreeze your account, we could all just withdraw our contributions and mail you a check/WU.
posted by special-k at 12:49 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Keep us posted on how paypal resolves this. If they refuse to unfreeze your account, we could all just withdraw our contributions and mail you a check/WU.

Yeah, absolutely.
posted by scody at 12:53 PM on May 22, 2010


The Google-translated link to Aloha Travel that Burhanistan provided (maybe not the Aloha Travel) contains this bizarre paragraph under the 'Parents' section:

Why is it safe?
Because our company has always maintained contact with students and their employers. 24 hours a day your child can call support (legal, moral, etc.). Because he has medical insurance. Because most often it meets the employer at the airport. Finally, because the United States - a country with bespretsendentym level of security, where even a dubious glance at the women could be fined tens of thousands of dollars.


Maybe it makes more sense in the original Russian, but that's a crazy final sentence, and sinisterly misleading if Aloha really is involved in any of this.
posted by painquale at 12:57 PM on May 22, 2010


Well shit, Paypal. What's their reasoning this time?
posted by Gordafarin at 1:00 PM on May 22, 2010


Well shit, Paypal. What's their reasoning this time?

"It's my nature."

posted by scody at 1:02 PM on May 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


You have to admit, we do have a bespretsendentym level of security in this country.
posted by found missing at 1:03 PM on May 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


It is usually the broad brush of "suspicious activity". It seems like PP spends more time freezing accounts than leaving them open.
posted by lampshade at 1:03 PM on May 22, 2010


Your search - bespretsendentym - did not match any documents.

Suggestions:

Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
Try different keywords.
Try more general keywords.

posted by lampshade at 1:04 PM on May 22, 2010


Is there anything that those of us who sent money can do? Contact PayPal and demand they release the funds we sent, for example?
posted by jacquilynne at 1:07 PM on May 22, 2010


I was wrong, things have not improved and I a worried, in fact they got mpor complicated. if you can't reach KG you can now contact me

Not to pry, but if this is about something other than PayPal, is it something specific we can help with (like the immigration lawyer fell through)?

If not, I hope whatever it is works out.
posted by sallybrown at 1:08 PM on May 22, 2010


Since it looks like it is needed, I'll summarize what I found out about wiring money yesterday, even though it is posted up thread.

Western Union can be done from an agent (cheaper, less hassle) or online (requires a listed telephone number they can call you back at). They also require that you give the person picking up the money your name, address, phone number and the dollar amount as well as the secret code thingie.

Moneygram can also be done from an agent (cheaper, less hassle) or online (they do a soft pull of your credit history and ask you questions to verify who you are). The person picking up the money needs to have the reference number and either your name or the dollar amount.

Moneygram is slightly cheaper than Western Union and a little less hassle, at least to send (although I'm not thrilled with that credit check).

Both have agents within a few blocks of IFDS.
posted by QIbHom at 1:09 PM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


All I can say is holy shit. Don't know how I missed this thread until now, but my hat is off to everyone involved.

Makes me proud to hang out here, even if all I do is post strange little jokes and geek out in threads about SF films. Hugs all around.
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:09 PM on May 22, 2010


fuq & IFDS: very alarmed to hear things have gotten more complicated. What would help most right now?
posted by Westringia F. at 1:10 PM on May 22, 2010


Sorry for the spooky mysterious updates! Don't worry, please!

The weird ominous vagueness is a function of me being stressed more than anything else.

Moderators, as always, thanks for your patience with my many quirks.


What you can do to help: pretty much figure out a western union/moneygram thing
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:13 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am trying to figure out the WU/Moneygram thing but if I had people send me money via Paypal so I can go to the WU office, we're running into the same danger with PayPal freezing MY account and frankly I cannot afford to front the money. If we had a way other than PayPal, we'd already be doing that.

Here's what my credit union says about wire transfers to a checking account:
Automated Clearing House (ACH)
Transfer funds electronically from your Navy Federal checking to a checking at another financial institution-free of charge

Generally takes 2-3 business days for a one-time transfer to be credited to your account.
There is a $2,500 per day limit on the transfer amount. However, there is a $500 per day limit for transfer requests made by phone to third parties.
You will need the Routing Transit Number and the checking account number at the financial institution receiving the ACH credit.
But 2-3 days wouldn't really help you any, would it? And I doubt you want to give out your account numbers to internet strangers, no matter how well meaning.
posted by desjardins at 1:25 PM on May 22, 2010


See, this is where someone needs to contact an Oprah producer. What could be a more timely show than one on human trafficing, and what could be more heartwarming than a rescue, etc. etc.

But she'd probably make you sign a pledge not to use your cell phone in the car. *ptui*

(Seriously, still praying for you guys, and may the money get unstuck quick!)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:27 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe Newsweek could contact PayPal as part of an update, and ask for a comment on the freezing?
posted by QIbHom at 1:28 PM on May 22, 2010


Does anyone have experience using Moneybookers? They look a lot like PayPal, in that you can transfer funds to someone directly online. Their site says:

With the Moneybookers system online payments are quicker and more reliable for millions of customers worldwide. Moneybookers offers a streamlined and hassle-free solution where all transactions are processed instantly and payment confirmations are being sent immediately.

I'm not sure what they are saying they are faster than, but if they are indeed faster than PayPal this might be a reasonable service to try.
posted by wowbobwow at 1:28 PM on May 22, 2010


This story is now currently featured on the frontpage of MSNBC.com:
Newsweek: How Metafilter stopped human trafficking.
Scroll down to the EXLPORE section.
posted by ericb at 1:29 PM on May 22, 2010


The only way around PayPal I can come up with is to run something like a mini-meet to collect cash, then head to the Moneygram agent.

If folks in Baltimore want to do this, I could commit to being at, say, Red Emma's later tonight for an hour or two, then hit the agent on my way home.
posted by QIbHom at 1:30 PM on May 22, 2010


*EXPLORE*
posted by ericb at 1:32 PM on May 22, 2010


Are there a lot of Mefites in NYC? Could you all (or whoever's not tapped out at this point) have a fundraiser/bring cash meetup tonight or tomorrow, and post it on the top of MeTa so people who aren't reading down this far can see it?

Or is there something specific (food, tickets) some of us could order from the internet and have delivered to you, so you wouldn't need cash?

I wish I could, like, get on a private jet and bring you big burlap sacks full of cash, but (to my great dismay), I am not actually Oprah. My pockets are lined with lint and old receipts from the days before I sold my soul to Sallie Mae.
posted by sallybrown at 1:33 PM on May 22, 2010


All I can offer is a Southwest award ticket that may or may not allow someone involved to get to NYC (though via islip, ugh.) Memail me if it might be of use.
posted by bitterpants at 1:34 PM on May 22, 2010


FWIW, I tipped off consumerist.com to see if they can mobilize their own internet superpowers on the PayPal issue. Long shot, but why not.
posted by availablelight at 1:36 PM on May 22, 2010


I wish I could, like, get on a private jet and bring you big burlap sacks full of cash....

Maybe scody (aka 'The Widow Moneybags') can send her G650 to pick you up! Scody?
posted by ericb at 1:37 PM on May 22, 2010


That would be fantastic! Let me just go down to my money bin and start grabbing handfuls of gold coins.
posted by sallybrown at 1:43 PM on May 22, 2010


Since it sounds like mathowie has a plane ticket for fake covered, maybe jessamyn can WU/Moneygram that money to IFDS?

This assumes that jessamyn's paypal hasn't been borked as well of course.
posted by grapesaresour at 1:44 PM on May 22, 2010


OK, I just talked to someone at Paypal to try to cancel my payment. This is what I was told (though please note I can't verify the objective truth of any of this):
Re Mefites canceling Paypal payments:

- Canceling pending payments at this point must happen on IFDS's end (i.e., Kathrine has to log into her account and cancel each one individually). Those of us who sent payments (allegedly) have our hands tied.

- If IFDS cancels the payments, each person who sent a payment will receive an email saying that the payment has been canceled. Hopefully each person will then turn around and either do a Moneygram/WU on their own, or jump in to a coordinated effort (which I am almost certain some other enterprising Mefite will take care of).

Re IFDS getting Paypal to unfreeze her account:

- According to the guy I talked to, he said that all that had to happen was for IFDS to call them (402-935-2050) and he said that they just needed her to "verify some information" and they would unfreeze the account today. I have no idea if this is really all it will take (I have my doubts), but he claims that it can happen.
on preview: Maybe scody (aka 'The Widow Moneybags') can send her G650 to pick you up! Scody?

Yes, of course! I'll get right on it. *calls out over shoulder* Jeeves! Tell the girl to start packing my case immediately! What's that? Yes, of course I want ostrich boa! stupid man. We're off to Gotham! Now where's my lorgnette?

posted by scody at 1:47 PM on May 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


Lawyers.
posted by fuq at 1:49 PM on May 22, 2010


I am continuing to pursue the "potential job leads" front. ifdss9 and fuq et. al, the only reason I haven't given you links is because I'm suspecting you're all still sorting out which way is up - say the word if you want me to shoot you anything specific. But in general, yes, there are still legitimate jobs to be had on the Jersey Shore (my roommate tipped me off that that may be one place to look).

I also got a tipoff for another more LEGITIMATE international-worker-summer-job-placement-agency thing, and I would be more than happy to call them and explain the situation and say "so, can you maybe help place them" if you would like me to. Until I get a green light to do that, I will continue to gather links and resources. (Shoot, I may just call them anyway on Monday just so that information is in hand.)

Interestingly, I ran into another Mefite just by chance in my local coffee shop (I saw him on the gray on his computer out of the corner of my eye, and leaned over and asked, "pardon me, but...") I have totally forgot his user name, but his rl name is Alex (hi, Alex!) and he said he would brainstorm about resources in DC (where he's based) and in Newark (where his wife is based). He also had the idea that if they decided to just pack it in and go home now, that if changing the airfare is a hassle, perhaps getting someone from the State Department to call the airline and say "look, this is what went down", they may waive the ticket change fee or some such.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:51 PM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


ericb scooped me, but here's a screenshot of the story on MSNBC's front page (you know, for the kids posterity).
posted by dhartung at 1:58 PM on May 22, 2010


Holy Shit! Fake's album is awesome!
posted by chillmost at 2:00 PM on May 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Neatorama.
posted by dhartung at 2:03 PM on May 22, 2010


The story is also now at Beliefnet.com, Gizmodo Australia and The Inquisitr.
posted by ericb at 2:03 PM on May 22, 2010


Now where's my lorgnette?

That's one classy lady! I bet you smoke your cigarettes with an ivory cigarette holder!
posted by ericb at 2:06 PM on May 22, 2010


sallybrown-

Near my apt on the UES there's a bar, Danny and Eddie's with a back patio and grill open to customer use. People come in with ribs etc head out back and bar b que, offering food to whomever. If people want to have a mini meet up there tonight, pool funds, and chat I can dash out and get some food (burgers, tofu dogs, what have you) and meet them. The place is on 1st ave between 85th and 86th close to the 4,5, and 6 subway lines. Anyone interested?
posted by miss-lapin at 2:06 PM on May 22, 2010


Canceling pending payments at this point must happen on IFDS's end (i.e., Kathrine has to log into her account and cancel each one individually). Those of us who sent payments (allegedly) have our hands tied.

If you paid with a credit card you should technically be able to cancel via your credit card provider's website. That might get you banned from PayPal or something though. Also I wouldn't suggest having ifdssn9 cancel the payments right away unless there is a big need to get more money immediately. People who are sending money today should not use PayPal, but hopefully PayPal will unfreeze the account before too long.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:08 PM on May 22, 2010


Situation improved.
posted by fuq at 2:09 PM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


A news.google.com search for 'metafilter' has been pretty good at turning up article links for me. I don't think it's found any that the intrepid folks here have missed, though.
posted by booksherpa at 2:09 PM on May 22, 2010


Situation improved.

Can we get this in graph form, pls.
posted by found missing at 2:12 PM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Situation improved.

Oh thank God.

BTW, as I publicize this story, I'm turning up occasional people who may have resources to offer -- job leads, help navigating bureaucracy, &c. I am presuming that right now these resources are not the bottleneck, but if they become one, let us know.
posted by KathrynT at 2:13 PM on May 22, 2010


Okay things are looking a lot better.

--We do not need lawyers anymore. We have laywers.

--Some excellent Metafilter people are bringing us money. If you physically live in NYC and want to do that, fine.

--If you do not live in NYC, we will figure out the PayPal thing ourselves. Don't worry about sending money another way. I realized that it is just too much trouble for everyone involved.



Sorry for the roller coaster. I feel like I have been bad about organizing this so sorry if it has been stressful to read/help/deal with for everyone.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:19 PM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sorry for the roller coaster. I feel like I have been bad about organizing this so sorry if it has been stressful to read/help/deal with for everyone.

Dude, seriously. Y'all are the ones on that roller coaster. You just need to tell us what to do, and take care of yourself.
posted by runningwithscissors at 2:23 PM on May 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


What kind of response have they gotten from their families? Are their families sending money, wanting them home right away, doing anything on their end in Russia to solve these (legal, situational, financial) problems?
posted by Houstonian at 2:23 PM on May 22, 2010


May I suggest that even if PayPal unfreezes KG's account, we focus on alternate methods, as there's no guarantee they won't screw with it again in a few days.
posted by dantekgeek at 2:24 PM on May 22, 2010


Near my apt on the UES there's a bar, Danny and Eddie's ... The place is on 1st ave between 85th and 86th close to the 4,5, and 6 subway lines. Anyone interested?

Totally interested, but any chance of picking a less remote destination? UES is quite the slog from Bklyn on a normal day, worse this weekend with the current F train nonsense. Village, anyone? Union Square?
posted by philotes at 2:24 PM on May 22, 2010


tl;dr
posted by Danf at 2:26 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The reason I picked the bar was for the grill (thought it would be a nice night for it), and it's a neighborhood bar so it could easily handle an impromptu get to together. But I can easily make it back downtown.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:29 PM on May 22, 2010


sallybrown, Near my apt on the UES there's a bar, Danny and Eddie's...

Just FYI, I'm not in or near New York, sorry. I was just being rude and volunteering people I don't know to do something, haha. I support you in spirit!
posted by sallybrown at 2:33 PM on May 22, 2010


Maybe if PayPal customer service were made aware of this story and the media coverage of it, they might be more helpful. Obstructing good deeds is bad PR, and no one wants that.
posted by homunculus at 2:35 PM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I sent the AskMeFi link to a friend of mine. He said that there was a Google ad for a Ukrainian dating site displayed. Sadly it is true. (http://imgur.com/aV8Pz). Does anyway else that this perhaps just a little bit inappropriate?
posted by vac2003 at 2:37 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe if PayPal customer service were made aware of this story and the media coverage of it, they might be more helpful.

I gave a (brief) (well, as brief as possible) rundown of the situation to the CS guy I talked to. He seemed sympathetic, but said that his hands were tied in terms of anything he could do other than what I laid out above. Again, don't know if this is the objective truth or not, but I suspect that there's some Systemic Paypal Insanity at work here that is beyond what one guy in the call center can counteract.
posted by scody at 2:38 PM on May 22, 2010


IFDS9, thank you for the updates. Don't you dare apologize, though :)

We're standing by.
posted by jragon at 2:38 PM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


wow, just wow. awesome job Metafilter.
posted by marienbad at 2:39 PM on May 22, 2010


Send the URLs for inappropriate ads to mathowie and he can block them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:40 PM on May 22, 2010


I am really enjoying Fake's album too.
posted by jragon at 2:42 PM on May 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


and 50% marshmallow filling.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:51 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not sure it will do any good, but I mentioned the paypal situation on Twitter, making sure to @paypal so it would show up in their feed, along with a link to the Newsweek blog article. It's a long shot, but I figure it couldn't hurt.
posted by shiu mai baby at 2:54 PM on May 22, 2010


other people are probably also working on the paypal freezing front to help but i also contacted a friend of mine who works at paypal (not in customer service) to see if he could do anything to help /fingers crossed
posted by raw sugar at 3:13 PM on May 22, 2010


Send the URLs for inappropriate ads to mathowie and he can block them.

Thanks for the pointer, jessamyn. I have contacted Matt.
posted by vac2003 at 3:17 PM on May 22, 2010


I've just added this as a complaint against paypal itself (under help/contact us/send us a question by email). Perhaps if large numbers of people who've gifted start complaining it'll get bumped up to someone with clout instead of just sitting in the queue of a callcentre helpdesk somewhere for the next few days.

"The recipient of my non-charitable gift has had their account frozen.

xxxx@gmail.com is a volunteer who stepped in to help two young russian women from possible human trafficking - an incident that has lead to national US press attention linked from newsweek and MSNBC.

http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/thehumancondition/archive/2010/05/21/exclusive-the-hero-behind-the-metafilter-human-trafficking-rescue-speaks-out.aspx

Metafilter, a large forum of tens of thousands of active users, have been contributing gifts to help out the volunteers who stepped up on the spot, to help with their immediate cash needs in looking after the girls.

Paypal, in an act of straight callousness have now frozen her account, meaning the gift I gave in good faith is now gathering interest in paypal's system somewhere.

To put it bluntly, I'm absolutely bloody furious with your company right now, as I'm sure are the many mefites who've already gifted through you.

I personally am seriously considering whether paypal is ever going to be an appropriate method of transferring money again, given this isn't the first time you've pulled this kind of bullshit.

I would advise you investigate this case and unfreeze her account as a matter of urgency, given the national media spotlight is rapidly focusing on the case, and I doubt 'Paypal steals the money gifted to internet hero' is the kind of headline your PR department is fond of."

posted by ArkhanJG at 3:17 PM on May 22, 2010 [12 favorites]


desjardins: It's amazing how badly Internet media can screw up the facts. Makes me wonder about everything else I read.

This. It really is interesting having been here when most of it went down and now reading the angles and slants on it from various sites.
posted by NoraCharles at 3:20 PM on May 22, 2010


I've also emailed that directly to ppelc@paypal.co.uk, supposedly the address of the UK paypal office of Executive Escalations, given all the UK office are going to be asleep in this timezone.

There is a list of paypal Executive Escalations phone numbers here in the US that is reportedly up to date as of 18th Jan this year. Any US mefites gifters I'm sure could politely but firmly leave messages asking to get the account freeze looked at by someone senior.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:36 PM on May 22, 2010


OK, paypal situation is kinda better. Kinda. They say it should be resolved by this time tomorrow.

Of course, that means that I won't be able to start the transfer of it until tomorrow, so that'll be another 3-4 day wait after that. OY!

Hugs!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:36 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I sent the AskMeFi link to a friend of mine. He said that there was a Google ad for a Ukrainian dating site displayed.

At this point, we've set it up so that the ad boxes should just be gone, period, from those threads. Trying to fight off the sketchy ads url-by-url would be kind of a nightmare, this is a lot simpler in this case.

In more general one-off cases, the let-us-know-via-the-contact-form plan is the best plan if you see a stray crappy ad pop up.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:42 PM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


> I'm still a little confused about how Aloha and George and the VA Beach sponsor are connected.

Yes, this is the other thing on which things are still very unclear. There are three parties involved, and of the three, one of them, the Sponsor, seems to be above-board, to have told the girls not to go to New York, and according to Newsweek, to have believed them to be safely in Virginia until it was too late. Who's the Sponsor and how come Aloha gets to over-ride them?

Now that this is all over the US/Western media -- is it making any appearances in the Russian medi? Anyone in a position to know?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:43 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


is it making any appearances in the Russian medi?

There is this.
posted by Balonious Assault at 3:52 PM on May 22, 2010


Situation improved.

Can we get this in graph form, pls.


We need something like the terrorist colored "whether map" But with Muppets. Is it Bert? Elmo? Kermit?

Re: metafilter cares. We have enough active people here we could start our own damned credit union.

Then we get Mutant to run the investment house. Today the Internet! Tomorrow the world! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

oh, was that outside my head?
posted by lysdexic at 3:54 PM on May 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh, and for people asking why I thought the implications of danger went as far as the girls' deaths, these two posts are an example:

if they got to nyc tomorrow, they are signing up to be prostitutes. they will get their passports taken, they will probably be beaten, and the only way to get out will be to die

Could you ask them if they have any final words for their mothers or something along those lines, to reinforce the gravity of the situation?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:06 PM on May 22, 2010


Mini meet-up for NYC MeFites to corral cash to be hand delivered to Fuq: 10 p.m. tonight, Doc Holliday's, 9th & Ave A. MeFi mail me for cell phone number.
posted by philotes at 4:08 PM on May 22, 2010


an active member of New York-based Internet forum MetaFilter

Heh. I'm sure that when MetaFilter HQ moves to New York, scody will be glad to give them a floor in the Empire State Building.
posted by maqsarian at 4:09 PM on May 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


There is such a niche for a service BETTER THAN Paypal to fill. When is someone going to do that?

Sometime in the last couple of years, I read an article (possibly in the NYT) about foreign students/young people who come to the U.S. on what was probably a J1 visa

I worked for eight summers as a camp counselor, and we had about 20% of our staff come on these work programs each year. They were great people. They arrived at these huge gathering/orientation events in NYC or DC or some other major international airport city. Hundreds of students at once would be gathered there at a conference hotel kind of place, and they would have a couple of days of orientation to US culture, working at camps, legal stuff, etc. Then they'd be put on a bus, plane, or train to their respective job sites. Anyone who was unassigned at the time they got to these central orientation spots actually didn't leave the conference hotel without a work assignment - a couple times we had someone fall through, like they actually got a better offer and stayed home, or got sick, or didn't work out with our camp - and so we had to send for a replacement, and they did bring in a certain number of "extra' students because this attrition usually happens and they could usually find a last-minute placement. But they didn't send anyone off without a specific job to be heading for.

We met them at the airport or train or bus station, took them to the camp, and the first thing that happened was that they met with the director, who called their agent to let them know they'd arrived, looked at their passports and filled out the paperwork for both the US and for their sending agencies, BUNAC and CCUSA. Those agencies were professional, easy to reach, and responsive, and they often sent people from their staff out to the job sites - we figured they were checking up on their clients, but I now realize as a result of this they were checking up on the employer and conditions, too. When the counselors got paid, it was actually the agency that got paid - the counselors didn't get the money directly. They did get a small stipend. After working for camp for ten weeks, they usually had about three months left on the visa and would normally spend that time traveling with other European friends they had made at camp or at their large-group orientation.

That, to me, is what a responsible student-visa program looks like.
posted by Miko at 4:09 PM on May 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Heh. I'm sure that when MetaFilter HQ moves to New York, scody will be glad to give them a floor in the Empire State Building.

argh this is such a good place to link to that great image of MetaFilter as a shiny corporate office lobby that someone created why can't I ever re-find anything on the darned internets aaaaargh
posted by Miko at 4:17 PM on May 22, 2010


OK, paypal situation is kinda better. Kinda. They say it should be resolved by this time tomorrow.

I hope that works out to be true. But FWIW, I've had PayPal tell me that in the past and not follow through for at least a week.

YMMV, just sharing a data point.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:23 PM on May 22, 2010


that great image of MetaFilter as a shiny corporate office lobby

Metafilter, please hold. Metafilter, please hold. Metafilter, please hold.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:26 PM on May 22, 2010 [32 favorites]


Not sure how much of that Russian article is lost in translation or how legitimate either site is, but this appears to be the same article (google translation here).
posted by Balonious Assault at 4:28 PM on May 22, 2010


scody will be glad to give them a floor in the Empire State Building.

Indubitably! A corner office and personal assistant for each mod!

Jeeves, please arrange for the monkeys to be brought back from the summer cottage. Yes, I want their special gold suits sent to the cleaners. stupid man. Yes, of course, they should bring the croquet set. They're going to be personal assistants! Won't that be merry!
posted by scody at 4:29 PM on May 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


INTERNET FRAUD SQUAD/MADAME HINES: the fastest ways I can think of to get money to you in the face of the PayPal melt down would be to wire transfer to your bank account or to overnight to you a money order, but I can't start either till Monday. Take your pick and email me - it's in my profile. For a wire transfer, I would need your bank, account number and the name it's under, and the routing numbers (fiirst 9 digits at the bottom of your check) for your bank You might also throw in your telephone no. and address in the email . A money order would need the name you want it made out to and address/tel/no. Will $500 get you though the crisis period?
posted by path at 4:29 PM on May 22, 2010


Metafilter, please hold. Metafilter, please hold. Metafilter, please hold.

Is that the html5 version?
posted by lysdexic at 4:31 PM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


On the subject of money orders, I've had family overnight money orders to me only to have the bank say they wanted to hold them for a week. I had to go to a check cashing store and give up a percentage for cash instantly. Wells Fargo bank wouldn't cash a Wells Fargo money order.

Wire transfer would be the fastest but even then there's a business day delay.

There are instant Visa gift cards that could be overnighted, but that's Tuesday. There's also the cash loadable cards for various stores and such. AmEx and Visa also have "cash cards" up to $500 where they'll still want your name and SSN.

Man, it should not be this hard. *shakes tiny fists at Nigerian email scammers*
posted by lysdexic at 4:36 PM on May 22, 2010


I always thought MetaFilter's New York HQ was a secret lair underneath Grand Central, with a mod bunker and banhammer-equipped recumbent bikes on ready status in the subway tunnels launch tubes.
posted by Quietgal at 4:37 PM on May 22, 2010


Western Union and Moneygram make the money available to her within a couple hours, if not sooner, for an additional fee.
posted by QIbHom at 4:40 PM on May 22, 2010


Right, yes. WU and MG are *the* fastest. I was thinking in terms of relative cost, but at this point, it's kind of moot.
posted by lysdexic at 4:46 PM on May 22, 2010


Ah, got it, lysdexic. Yeah, it is a bit pricy to use WU and MG, which is why mini-meet ups to gather the cash and send it together might be better, when practical.

I am liking the idea of a MeFi emergency fund more and more, although I'm leery of folks coming to depend on it, rather than us being the last ditch resort of the panicked poster.
posted by QIbHom at 4:50 PM on May 22, 2010


I always thought MetaFilter's New York HQ was a secret lair underneath Grand Central, with a mod bunker and banhammer-equipped recumbent bikes on ready status in the subway tunnels launch tubes.

THAT IS SO NOT TRUE!!!
posted by the Cabal at 4:52 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always thought MetaFilter's New York HQ was a secret lair underneath Grand Central, with a mod bunker and banhammer-equipped recumbent bikes on ready status in the subway tunnels launch tubes.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Mods?
posted by headnsouth at 4:55 PM on May 22, 2010


One nice thing about the way MeFi donates is that nothing goes too far unless there's a strong collective will in the community.
posted by Miko at 4:55 PM on May 22, 2010


MetaFilter shiny corporate office lobby lacks taters.
posted by lukemeister at 4:57 PM on May 22, 2010


Teenage Mutant Ninja Mods?

Heroes playing Half-Life. Nerdle power!
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:58 PM on May 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


True, Miko. There may or may not be a way to keep that with an emergency fund.

That is, after all, how insurance started, before it became...what it is now.
posted by QIbHom at 4:59 PM on May 22, 2010


"Does anyone have experience using Moneybookers? They look a lot like PayPal, in that you can transfer funds to someone directly online."

I'd advise against this. My company tried to use them to pay people in countries not covered by PayPal (mostly former USSR). We tried and tried and were unable to use them. We talked to their reps, followed their advicse, wired them money, and they wired it back. Repeatedly. Their customer support was horrible. Total time waster. A said to talk to B said to talk to A.

I think that they are having legal issues on how they can deal with the US (they are based in the UK), but don't want to say that, since that would leave them in a less advantageous situation regarding their negotiations with the US about legality.

It may work better for small, non-corporate payments, but based on their horrible support, I'd suggest its better to try to put some weight on PayPal than waste time with them. I think PayPal will fold to the internet support this issue has been getting.

And- I'd just like to say thank you for the people who've done a good thing these last couple of days. You are good people.
posted by superchris at 4:59 PM on May 22, 2010


I always thought MetaFilter's New York HQ was a secret lair underneath Grand Central

There's no reason it can't be both. They could have another secret tunnel like this one, leading to Grand Central.
posted by maqsarian at 5:00 PM on May 22, 2010


I keep coming back to the comment that geoff. linked to. On one hand, I think it's a good thing that the stigma has been removed from sex work to the extent it has (both so that people who do want to be sex workers can do so with less danger and negative consequences, and so that people who don't have better resources for getting out without being considered permanently damaged and unacceptable to the rest of society). On the other hand, I'm uncomfortable that the expectation that women will and must put their bodies on display for the entertainment of others is so strong that many people seem not to consider stripping to be sex work.

I don't want to sound like the alarmists who claim that "if prostitution is legalized, a woman who refused to take a job as a prostitute would lose her unemployment benefits for refusing legal work!" (paraphrased from fuzzy memory), but at the same time, the idea that the kind of coercion described is somehow fine, and that being manipulated or forced into stripping is not a big deal because it's just a job like any other troubles me.
posted by Lexica at 5:03 PM on May 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm another long term lurker that's just gotten an account to say how proud I am of everyone involved. This really is the best of the web.

On the J1 job front, I wanted to let Fake, IFDS,S#9, and the girls know that I worked for Ballard's Inn on Block Island a few years back, and they hired J1's throughout the summer. These weren't great jobs (basically low-level restaurant/hotel work), but they're a legit family run business that may be able to help out with work, and they're experienced with how to deal with worker-visas properly. In addition, this island is beautiful, and we all had a really fun summer despite doing shitty resort work.

They have a website with contact info (), and I'd be happy to make a call and try to expedite the process if needed. I have know idea how memail works yet, but feel free to me mail me. I'm sure I can figure out how to check it.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 5:11 PM on May 22, 2010


crap, I need to figure out how to format links properly. Ballard's Inn is here: http://www.ballardsinn.com/main.html
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 5:13 PM on May 22, 2010


Hmmm. The Hero Initiative - meant for distressed comic authors, but maybe we could franchise?
posted by lysdexic at 5:16 PM on May 22, 2010


Welcome, a box and a stick and a string and a bear. You might find the Metafilter wiki page on formatting useful. There is a lot of other good info there, too.
posted by QIbHom at 5:16 PM on May 22, 2010


That is, after all, how insurance started, before it became...what it is now.

IT actually kinda reminds me of that, but particularly the way fraternal societies and mutual aid societies worked....the Odd Fellows, Woodmen, etc.
posted by Miko at 5:24 PM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Block Island would be a truly awesome place to spend the summer.
posted by Miko at 5:25 PM on May 22, 2010


Wow, good work everyone.
posted by delmoi at 5:27 PM on May 22, 2010


I notified the Global Voices Russia editor.
posted by k8t at 5:42 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


One woman, 24-year-old Katherine Hines, invited to meet girls when they arrive in New York, and publish them yourself.

In Soviet Russia...oh fuck it.
posted by special-k at 5:59 PM on May 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


a box and a stick and a string and a bear

can I have your contact info, please email or memail it to me

thanks
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:01 PM on May 22, 2010


There is such a niche for a service BETTER THAN Paypal to fill. When is someone going to do that?

Revolution Money Exchange?
posted by kitty teeth at 6:08 PM on May 22, 2010


So it seems to me that if they're covered with regard to lawyers and money, that just leaves... guns?
posted by Ritchie at 6:23 PM on May 22, 2010 [15 favorites]


made it safe.
posted by fake at 6:26 PM on May 22, 2010 [28 favorites]


Excellent Fake! That bottle should keep you going for a bit.
posted by lampshade at 6:30 PM on May 22, 2010


I'm going to assume this is not our cortex, because I really can't see him referring to everybody here as "hysterical chatroom users".

Bingo!


I had nothing to do with that. Seriously.
posted by bingo at 6:34 PM on May 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


mods, (especially cortex), out of pure curiosity, could you let us know what is going on with new user sign-ups from a quantitative p.o.v. with all the media attention?
posted by Mid at 6:44 PM on May 22, 2010


We've seen a ton of new signups, many more then usual. One of the interesting things is that there are more people actually making it all the way through the sign-up process [i.e. clicking sign-up and getting all the way to paying $5] than we usually see. The numbers are in my email someplace but I think we're seeing like 10x as many signups over the past 24-48 hours, maybe more. So look out for a lot of dopey questions seven days from now in AskMe.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:46 PM on May 22, 2010 [31 favorites]


Well, I was basically a Kaycee sign-up myself, so welcome everyone.
posted by Mid at 6:48 PM on May 22, 2010


I've been following this and the original AskMe thread for the past few days...MeFites never cease to amaze me. You're an inspiration. Hoping things continue to work out well for everyone involved.

a box and a stick and a string and a bear: you've probably gotten the hang it it by now, but just in case you find it helpful, the FAQ also has a brief intro to using MeFi Mail. To check your own MeMail, just look near the top of each metafilter site/subsite page...on the right, next to "Welcome back a box and a stick and a string and a bear" you'll see a clickable envelope icon that'll take you to your MeMail page. If there are any unread messages, you'll see the number of them, e.g. "(2)" adjacent to the envelope.

Also just in case, the FAQ has a handy, short (it runs a little over a minute) screencast/tutorial from mathowie himself on how to use bold/italics/make links.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 6:48 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Big bump yesterday, very nearly a hundred new accounts; smaller but still significant bump today, just about 40 signups so far. Average daily signups are more around 10-15, for comparison.

Last time we saw this kind of surge in signups was when there was that nice writeup of Ask Metafilter on Slate, I think, with a similar sort of magnitude and falloff.

My only concern with all of that is that a few folks may have signed up specifically with the intent of using askme as a person-finder service or something because of a skewed impression of what the site is about based on the outside coverage, but I'm hoping that won't really be much of an issue. A lot of folks have noted in this thread that they're lurkers finally signing up, which I imagine accounts for a fair amount of the bump and means they won't be so disoriented as the average "I read about this in the (electronic) paper" newbie.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:50 PM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I signed up 16 new Astro Zombies, but you won't hear from then until the right time. And by the time you actually hear from them, it will already be over.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:52 PM on May 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


In Soviet Russia, hostess scams you!
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:57 PM on May 22, 2010


I signed up 16 new Astro Zombies, but you won't hear from then until the right time.

I always suspected that Astro Zombie was a huge pyramid scheme.
posted by special-k at 6:58 PM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


There was an episode of This American Life where they observed a weekend at a large rest area on some NY Thruway. Many if not all of the summer staff were young Polish or Russian students who lived together under some sort of arrangement.... I know this isn't the most glam job out there, but it sounds like a well established gig w/re: Eastern European youths traveling and working in the US.
Probably not a feasible job idea for K & S, but in any event it is a good episode and a good way to kill an hour of a restless summer e'en.
posted by wowbobwow at 6:59 PM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


There was an episode of This American Life

That was the "article" I thought I was (totally mis-)remembering, above. Glad to have found it.
posted by rtha at 7:09 PM on May 22, 2010


I had nothing to do with that. Seriously.

Please accept my apology. As might be somewhat evident from my screen name, I joined MeFi thinking I'd have a bunch of one-liners, zingers and general hilarity to contribute. But I soon realized that this great community deserves better than that, and I found myself getting really annoyed with the people who do that here. So I try not to do it myself. I gave in to my baser instincts and I'm sorry.
posted by Balonious Assault at 7:09 PM on May 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


That was the "article" I thought I was (totally mis-)remembering, above. Glad to have found it.

See, that's what happens when I skim the thread and miss previous mentions of things I think I'm terribly unique to be posting about, all buffoonishly. Note to self: RTFT
posted by wowbobwow at 7:23 PM on May 22, 2010


A news.google.com search for 'metafilter' has been pretty good at turning up article links for me.

I cannot now resist pointing out how many truncated RSS results read:
"How MetaFilter saved my pals from sex"
or
"Metafilter users save two Russian girls from sex"

Clearly, our work here is done.
posted by dhartung at 7:27 PM on May 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Oh, I had to stop following the AskMe thread when the visitors about-faced; my sensitive heart just couldn't take it anymore. After I saw it side-barred, I caught up.

I've been weeping like a child with relief for the past half hour; I can still barely see to read.

MetaFilter, you're MY hero!
posted by _paegan_ at 7:39 PM on May 22, 2010


Big bump in sign-ups = Matt rolling in Dead Presidents!!

I smell 11 year Anniversary Meetup with Free Beer and Jalapeño poppers for everyone!!

(Yay for the turn out and hugs all around!! Thank God for all involved. I can't imagine being in the shoes of their mothers right now. So relieved, as a Mom and as a Mefite!!)
posted by pearlybob at 7:49 PM on May 22, 2010


Hello a box and a stick and a string and a bear - I have sent you a Mefi Mail message so you can see how it works. Look at the top of the page, all the way up at the top of this thread, upper right corner of your screen. There's a search box, and under it is your user name in yellow. Just next to that is a tiny envelope. Click on the envelope to go to your mailbox.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:52 PM on May 22, 2010


Are people still at Doc's? I was working at 10 but I'm at the bar now.
posted by nicwolff at 8:00 PM on May 22, 2010


almost 1200 posts in this thread and the server's doing fine, this is amazing.
posted by boo_radley at 8:12 PM on May 22, 2010


Wow, just wow. I had skipped the original ask.me thread at first, but came back to it when Kottke gave a short summary. MetaFilter wins the interwebs. Kudos to those (named and unnamed) who played a role!

Will be watching for non-Paypal instructions for sending $20 to IFDS#9 from the Midwest (looks like WU want to skim off a $5 fee at minimum, grrr). My credit union will let me add anyone as a bill payee, but that requires address & phone # plus it wouldn't be there until Friday at best.
posted by Fin Azvandi at 8:19 PM on May 22, 2010


I can't tell you off-hand how many Russian tea rooms there are in San Diego, but I can tell you it's a major border city with a significant sex trafficking trade. Now, given that the girls had first flown to the states for vague promises of "lifeguard" jobs in Virginia Beach, which then turned into "hostess" jobs in New York, which then turned into unnamed jobs 3000 miles away in San Diego (all being pitched by a fellow named "George" who didn't seem to speak either much English or Russian)... seriously? You think the question of whether this is legitimate hinges on there being a sufficient number of Russian restaurants in San Diego to meet the mobster demand for blini?

Just a note on the randomness of San Diego. For those of us who have lived in resort/beach towns, the summertime arrival of Russian students has become commonplace, especially in the last 10 years. It doesn't have anything to do with a Russian community in the area. I promise you that there was not a thriving immigrant community of Eastern Europeans on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and yet the Food Lion in Kitty Hawk is seemingly almost entirely staffed by cute Russian and Ukrainian students in the summer.

That said, of course it makes absofuckinglutely no sense to fly the girls all the way to San Diego, and this tour company is obviously sketchy as hell.
posted by desuetude at 8:20 PM on May 22, 2010


I'd like to throw in my two cents because I feel that this isn't really being addressed:

There's been some discussion about whether or not these young women were really in danger of being trafficked into the sex industry or if there really were "respectable" positions available to them.

However, it's important to note that it's not the specific type of work that determines whether a situation can be described as trafficking; women and men are trafficked into non-sex-related occupations all of the time, as nannies, maids, factory workers, manual laborers, etc.

It's the way they are treated when they have these positions that is particularly heinous. In textbook cases, their passports/papers (if they have any) are confiscated and their wages are menial or nonexistent, withheld to "pay off their debt" to their employer/trafficker.

Virtual slavery. No chains or seedy dungeons necessary.

So AmbroseChapel, bingo, et. al, perhaps you are correct that it is premature to assume that K & S were specifically in danger of becoming sex slaves, but given the sketchy behavior of the women's sponsors, compared to Squeak Attack's description of how legitimate organizations handle J-1 visas, it's pretty clear that these women were in danger of being exploited in some form or fashion. If not sexually, then, at the very least, economically, like the girls in .geoff's link.

We can bicker about who or what we saved them from, or we can look at what we have definitively accomplished in the past few days:

1) We've provided the opportunity for unquestionably legitimate employment for two young women

2) We've raised awareness about human trafficking issues in the US (today, I learned that Wichita, KS, of all places, is a major trafficking hot spot, due to its proximity to I-35)

3) We've demonstrated that the combination of benevolent people + the interwebs is awe-inspiringly powerful.
posted by chara at 8:37 PM on May 22, 2010 [28 favorites]


I joined MeFi thinking I'd have a bunch of one-liners, zingers and general hilarity to contribute. But I soon realized that this great community deserves better than that

Oh man. If only you had told me that years ago.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:53 PM on May 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


kathrineg, fuq, fake, others: good work, now get some sleep.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:00 PM on May 22, 2010


Whether or not it means anything specific, there is indeed enough of a Russian community in San Diego tohave a web presence. I absolutely am not suggesting anything shady about them, but a few times people have said there isn't one, and there does seem to be one. Just a point of fact.
posted by Miko at 9:01 PM on May 22, 2010


Dammit, totally missed the meetup today. Why wasn't I reading this thread instead of working today?
posted by Skorgu at 9:04 PM on May 22, 2010


Hi, guys. Just got back in town.
Did I miss anything?
posted by Floydd at 9:06 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


compared to Squeak Attack's description of how legitimate organizations handle J-1 visas,

Oh yeah, I meant to heartily second his account from the experience of my own dayjob. Even new B-1 visas require unbelievable amounts of documentation and justification from some countries.
posted by desuetude at 9:16 PM on May 22, 2010


Hi!

Went to meet some mefites and some great people who gave us some cash to help with the next few days' expenses.

We are all very happy and a bit tired of each other (heh).

Anyone who wants to find me on facebook to ascertain my realness is totally welcome but if you do that then you have to friend me and come to my birthday party :)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:24 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


didnt i just tell you to get some sleep? Off you go.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:26 PM on May 22, 2010


Assuming with a fair amount of confidence that this is the Aloha Travel in question, their work in the US program seems fairly full of shit and scammy: $200-300 a month for living expenses, $2-3k a month in income, no need to know the language well because you'll pick it up in a week or so and everyone is very friendly and patient with you?! It's not necessarily a front for sex trafficking (and that's not to say that people who have contacts with Aloha do just that), but that they are looking to rip off naive Russians with the promise of easy money.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:26 PM on May 22, 2010


"didnt i just tell you to get some sleep? Off you go."

I need to relax...what do I do when I want to relax...

Oh. Metafilter. D'oh!

Anyway, tmorrow we're going to get the MOST REST EVER and get out of the city, partially courtesy of mefites shmegegge and ObscureReferenceMan and Long Island.

If you contacted me and I haven't contacted you, I will be catching up in the next few days when I have a minute here or a minute there.

I know I have said this a million times, but thank you, thank you, thank you. Even if I didn't write you back or call you, I read all of your messages and they meant a lot to me and my little family, and to K and S. They really want to send or do something to thank you so we'll be working on that! I wonder what we'll come up with!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:15 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm embarrassed to admit that despite being a MeFite for, I don't know, a frickin' decade or something, I didn't find out about this story until I saw it posted on Gizmodo. I guess I'm slipping. But now, after reading way over 1,000 posts between the two threads, I've just gotta chime in to say that this is a fascinating story, and I'm amazed by and proud of all my little blue internet friends. Good job, y'all! I can't help but think that somewhere there's a Russian mobster sitting alone in the back of seedy strip joint twirling his handlebar moustache, muttering "...and I would gotten away with it too, if it weren't for those meddling kids...."

If more donations are needed and a simple way to send the cash has been devised, feel free to hit my MeMail and let me know what I can do to help. Otherwise, I guess I'll just patiently wait for the inevitable dramatization on 'Law & Order SVU.' You just know that its coming....
posted by spilon at 10:32 PM on May 22, 2010


Anyone who wants to find me on facebook to ascertain my realness is totally welcome but if you do that then you have to friend me and come to my birthday party :)

I would like to officially volunteer to be on the committee to throw internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 the GREATEST 25th BIRTHDAY OF ALL TIME! (OF ALL TIME!)
posted by chara at 10:39 PM on May 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


didnt i just tell you to get some sleep? Off you go.

I just got back from our little L.A. shindig -- conveniently timed to bid fond farewell to mrzarquon and a hearty hello to some guy from North Dakota who just drove here and had a crazy story to tell -- and I can tell you that while fake probably needs some sleep, I don't think he's going to be getting it any time immediately soon.
posted by scody at 10:43 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, you guys, we've been covered by MetaFilter! Now we've reallly hit the big time!
posted by maqsarian at 10:44 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Possible STATUE OF LIBERTY JOBS? For K and S?

Someone said something about this and I can't figure out who to ask them more about it.

If you know what I'm talking about, can you email or mefimail me? Thank you!


"I would like to officially volunteer to be on the committee to throw internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 the GREATEST 25th BIRTHDAY OF ALL TIME! (OF ALL TIME!)"

Aww yay but I think I got it covered. I've been planning it since December (it's my 24th birthday party just really, really late)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:52 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fazed had this up at May 21st, 2010 (11:04 AM) titled "Traffic Jam"
That's where I first saw it
posted by Zangal at 11:23 PM on May 22, 2010


Nicwolf is working on getting details on some Cape Cod options (my family has been silent to this point - which, actually, isn't surprising since my parents are SERIOUSLY Internet-phobic and may not have gotten my email).

I'll be checking on NYC Youth Hostel jobs on Monday. Will also call the BUNAC organization Miko mentioned above.

Someone on my Facebook friends list that has NO CONNECTION TO METAFILTER WHATSOEVER just posted a link to this as his status saying "check out what I read about on BoingBoing" (TOTALLY blew my mind seeing him talk about this), so I jumped in to where everyone was talking about how awesome it all was and yadda yadda to say yes, and if you want to help -- know any job leads? I'll let you know how that pans out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:40 PM on May 22, 2010


Possible STATUE OF LIBERTY JOBS? For K and S?

When is the Lifetime Original Movie coming out? For the Love of Liberty: The K and S Story; alternate title: Metafilter, May I Work at Lux Lounge?
posted by sallybrown at 11:43 PM on May 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


I can tell you that while fake probably needs some sleep, I don't think he's going to be getting it any time immediately soon.

Dude passed out on the ride home and I left him with strict instructions to proceed straight to bed. I believe he intends to heed this advice to the best of his ability, but there may be some whiskey/coke-induced zig-zaggering in place of any attempted straight lines. A good man I met tonight, and I look forward to buying him many more whiskey/cokes.
posted by carsonb at 12:03 AM on May 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


I wonder if K and S are ever going to get their own $3000 back?
posted by Anything at 1:13 AM on May 23, 2010


It's a bit early in the year yet, but I know there's a lot of j1 work in summer camps. I used to work for a boy's camp in Maine which staffed its kitchen with eastern European travellers. Here's the place I worked, which runs June 25th to August 16th.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:09 AM on May 23, 2010


Possible STATUE OF LIBERTY JOBS?

What happened? Did that tall French lady call in sick?
posted by Ritchie at 2:33 AM on May 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


> there may be some whiskey/coke-induced zig-zaggering

It took me a while to figure out what you meant by "coke" there.

At least, what I think you meant.
posted by languagehat at 5:50 AM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


my little blue internet friends

what are we, smurfs?
posted by desjardins at 6:31 AM on May 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


<3 LA Mefites
posted by fake at 6:38 AM on May 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


fake, I have quite a bit of money for your NYC adventure and I guess you've got a plane ticket coming from mathowie [and a bunch of other people lined up to be next if that doesn't work] so we should coordinate once you're settled. Maybe at some point we should start a new MeTa thread that's just working out logistics on the angles of what needs to happen next that is stuff the community can help with

- jobs for K&S
- fake to NYC
- legal assistance [still needed?]
- kathrineg birthday party
- other ways for people to help who need/want to

because this one's getting a little long. Thanks everyone.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:16 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was just going to suggest a new thread, specifically on what is needed and who to send to.
posted by hazyspring at 7:21 AM on May 23, 2010


Also, a relative is a moderator at Paypal and very involved, if anyone needs any assistance, let me know and I can ask him to contact the people he knows. Although, it looks like the paypal situation has been mostly resolved.
posted by hazyspring at 7:23 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The ask thread is now the 3rd result in a google search for "metafilter". The home page and the front page of Ask are the two results above.
posted by Night_owl at 7:29 AM on May 23, 2010


Jessamyn, maybe employment networking for kathrineg, too, if it's desired?
posted by booksherpa at 7:40 AM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe a page on the wiki makes more sense? It would seem to be better for organizing logistical stuff, although you should see my desk right now so I'm no expert.
posted by desjardins at 7:47 AM on May 23, 2010


nevermind, meta gets way more traffic so that's a stupid idea.

/me goes back to drinking coffee
posted by desjardins at 7:47 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Shii is making an archive of websites involved.

Can someone PLEASE get the Facebook stuff and Myspace stuff in screenshot form and email them to me?
I don't have Facebook but we do need to get this stuff saved ASAP.
posted by fake at 7:56 AM on May 23, 2010


- legal assistance [still needed?]

I believe this angle to be covered. I know there's been some in-thread confusion about it, but as I understand things, help is now available in a form we can use.

Before starting a new thread, let's convene with the Detective and figure out what's happened over the weekend.
posted by fake at 8:07 AM on May 23, 2010


Facebook screenshots on their way to your gmail fake.
posted by dantekgeek at 8:09 AM on May 23, 2010


Received, Dantegeek -- thanks. I do welcome any screenshots from any linked website (myspace was mentioned by AstroZombie, I think?) from any other person willing to make 'em.
posted by fake at 8:15 AM on May 23, 2010


This might actually be a use for Wave: Here. It's read-only except for some of the main participants, email or memail me if you'd like to contribute.
posted by Skorgu at 8:16 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


^ If you get trafficked in the US by an American corporation, you can actually obtain US citizenship due to some kind of legislation that took effect during the Clinton administration.

This is almost but not quite accurate. The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 established the T-1 visa, which is specifically for victims of trafficking. To get one, though, you must have concrete proof that you were trafficked, which can be hard to get. Permanent residency is an option at the end of the three-year visa period, however. More info.
posted by etoile at 8:31 AM on May 23, 2010


I am really grateful for the money and plane tickets. I will give most of the money to Kathrine, and also buy myself some windshield wiper blades. Otherwise, please do not send any more of those kinds of resources to me. I am terribly grateful but covered, especially since unspeakably generous Mefites housed and fed me along the way.

Send good wishes/email/memail if you like. If I could make one wish in life it would be to have a better understanding of higher mathematics, so if you know ways to help with that (not internet resources), let me know. If it helps, I'll be in Glendale, CA for the next year.
posted by fake at 8:34 AM on May 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


^ If you get trafficked in the US by an American corporation, you can actually obtain US citizenship due to some kind of legislation that took effect during the Clinton administration.

Thanks for the clarification, etoile. In case there was any question, these two definitely want to return to Russia when their J1 visas expire.
posted by fake at 8:37 AM on May 23, 2010


Fake, I have a feeling that Metafilter would love to see you take some of the monies headed your way and pay a math tutor. For in person math awesomeness.
posted by bilabial at 8:47 AM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


>In case there was any question, these two definitely want to return to Russia when their J1 visas expire.

Good--we need people in other countries explaining that many Americans are friendly, helpful and generous people. Downright nice, even.
posted by pi3832 at 8:48 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fake, I have a feeling that Metafilter would love to see you take some of the monies headed your way and pay a math tutor. For in person math awesomeness.

It's a damned fine idea. I will make sure all the people in NYC are covered first.
posted by fake at 8:54 AM on May 23, 2010


--Lawyers, completely covered!

--Visas, we know! KF is actually a lawyer-type who knows a lot about this, trafficking visas, etc.

--For now we're all just going to have a relaxed(ish) Sunday

--Yay!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:54 AM on May 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


Hooray!

I archived the "Bottle Poppin Fridays" photos that seem to show some of the "J1"s in action. Due to Facebook's scraper ban, I had to look at each and every photo before copying it. I'm glad fake has saved his friends from this fate.
posted by shii at 9:49 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I feel silly for even asking this, but I'm kind of weirded out. I'm sure its random coincidence and I'm just being totally paranoid... but:

I just got a call on my cell phone from a blocked number, and when I answered there was a muffled voice with an accent (couldn't pin down what kind) saying something about "motherf*$@#ing son of a bitch" and then hung up.

I normally wouldn't think anything of this, except for the call coming right after I posted (above) about sending fake the facebook screenshots, and that I've never got a call like this before. My phone number isn't plastered all over the net, but its not exactly hard to find either.

I'm being silly, right?.. right? fuq, fake, IFDS, anyone else get something similar?
posted by dantekgeek at 9:54 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's a news copy I wrote for the BBC Ukrainian website. Hopefully some young Ukrainian girl will read this and avoid doing something stupid.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ukrainian/world/2010/05/100523_metafilter_trafficking_sp.shtml
posted by Svitlana at 10:00 AM on May 23, 2010 [21 favorites]


I just read all of this for the first time and I must say, you all are a bunch of amazing people. Reading this and the Newsweek blog made me love humanity a little bit more today. I hope these women remain safe and sound. Amazing jobs, everyone.
posted by Kskomsvold at 10:09 AM on May 23, 2010


Dantegeek, must be a coincidence because undoubtedly we'd be hearing from them first, our numbers and emails having been posted.

Svitlana, thank you so much for that article.
posted by fake at 10:33 AM on May 23, 2010


I've been following this story, but even after all that's been said and done, it's not clear how IFDS made the jump from being a total stranger to the girls to trustworthy, i.e. from the wiki:

"internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 managed to contact K & S and convince them not to go to the interview and Lux Lounge"

If some random person started texting me, I'd just ignore it. Was there someone involved who made some kind of introduction via SMS? Still seems amazing that they went with it considering all the conflicting info and sketchy characters flying around.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 10:37 AM on May 23, 2010


This is google's translation of that BBC article:

Internet - not just news, spam, e-mail and discussion on political topics. Increasingly powerful and declare himself the so-called social networking and online communities that allow strangers to each other sometimes people quickly get in touch and exchange information.

One non-profit online community called Metafilter (Metafilter.com), which emerged in the U.S. many years ago, has witnessed - and party - with dramatic stories of two girls from Russia, their friend on the way to Los Angeles, imaginary Russian Mafia Genuine New York police and numerous Internet users who communicate over the years on your favorite site became real friends.

On this story, which penetrated the top American press, I told one of the users of the site under the nickname Optamystic. He has long conversation with several people who were involved in online transactions. And this is how events unfolded.

Click Original theme Metafilter on the website - in English, with profanity

Late Wednesday evening Metafiltera users saw a message from one of his friends under the nickname fake. The boy, whose real name Daniel Ritz, requested assistance. Two of his friends rosiyanok - 18 and 20 years - were in Washington, where the Russian company to travel and work abroad, promised them jobs.

However, instead of the promised employment girls called their contact and said that they will meet a man unknown to them at midnight in New York, and here it is work.

Two Russian citizen offered work as waitresses in a nightclub.

Daniel is driving by car to Los Angeles, on the opposite coast from their friends. He asked someone to meet girls or persuade them not to attend this meeting in a dangerous area of town. His own reservations about what they can take away your passport and sold into slavery, the girls would not listen. Russian embassy, he said, found no interest in the situation.

On Thursday the Russian citizen got on the bus and headed to New York.

Dear girls called representative agency, which sponsored their visa: Daniel contacted with the agency. The representative advised not to go to a meeting with an unknown man, but the girls decided to disobey and apologized for his friend, who "created a problem." After that the girls stopped answering calls Daniel. All this time he wrote on Metafilter about the latest news via your mobile phone and read the various tips and offers of assistance are coming from dozens of other users.

One korystuvachok, Catherine Hynes, decided that the girls are adults, others hardly listen to advice or prohibitions, but it can help them that will provide accommodation in New York. Katherine met the girls on the bus and said: do in this city want, but you can stay here with her husband. Russian citizen, agreed and left the suitcases in Katherine.

Users Metafiltera meanwhile sought information on Lux Lounge "- the club where the girls had to go. His address set thanks to "Google Stritv'yu - service that displays real street shooting. As it turned out, this place is in a dangerous area for a long time not worked, and recently opened a strip club. Someone recognized this former club restaurant, where once worked his grandparents, immigrants from Eastern Europe.

Meanwhile, the debate on the website connected with the department against peremytnytstvom people. Officer - The user Metafiltera - began to check information about night club where the girls allegedly offered the job, and the Russian agency that worked for them visas.

Katherine telephoned the New York police and reported plans to girls. Police promised to call back but call it was not, and Catherine decided to go with the girls at the venue with an unknown man at midnight. Community at its Metafilteri strongly cautioned against this: "There may be involved in the Russian mafia! - But Katherine still gone.

At the moment hundreds of people in various cities around the world read the discussion, offering assistance vyshukuvaly numbers of agencies involved in the affairs of peremytnytstva people. Hundreds of people have vidryvalysya screens with horror or hope waiting for news from New York.

After the message appears on the website, which is so waited the whole community. Daniel published an SMS that he received from one of rosiyanok. "D" Listen. I do not know how to thank you. "Lux Lounge" - a strip bar, if we went there, I do not know what would happen ... Thanks! You saved our lives! "

Plain-clothes police followed the same three girls, so to secure them. After questioning rosiyanok who finally realized all risk situations go. A website sobbed and greeted Daniel with success. An investigation of the agency, which sent girls to the USA.

But that's not all.

Catherine, now looking for work, invited the girls to stay for several days in a while they flee to the plan. One of the comments on the website of Katherine obmovylasya they surface with her husband to buy food. For several hours users of the website sent to them via PayPal - a service where you can send money to my email, where they move to a bank account - to 4 thousand dollars.

Another few years ago this story would have been impossible. Technology - such as advanced cell phones that allow you to publish posts on the Internet from the middle of the highway somewhere in California, new Internet services, supertochni maps with the image - makes this story possible.

There remains hope that someone reads this message on the same Internet website at BBC Xi, and remember him if he (or rather most) will be in this situation.

posted by special-k at 10:39 AM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


fake, exactly what I figured, but wasn't sure if you guys had got anything like that but kept it private. thanks :)
posted by dantekgeek at 10:40 AM on May 23, 2010


Big Fat Tycoon: it seems that someone was on the bus who helped convince K&S.

A few more people talking about this upthread.
posted by olya at 10:43 AM on May 23, 2010


KF is actually a lawyer-type who knows a lot about this, trafficking visas, etc.

The mysterious KF returns!

No doubt there's a good reason why fake and internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 are ignoring all requests to explain who KF is. Since he apparently played such a pivotal role in proceedings, and is still helping out, all under the cloak of anonymity... I'm just going to assume he's some sort of masked crusader at this point.
posted by a little headband I put around my throat at 10:50 AM on May 23, 2010


Metafilter: A website sobbed and greeted Daniel with success.
posted by sallybrown at 10:51 AM on May 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm just going to assume he's some sort of masked crusader at this point.

He's a MeFite who doesn't want to be part of the public-facing part of this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:54 AM on May 23, 2010


okay but we can still imagine him in a superhero costume with a cape right
posted by desjardins at 11:09 AM on May 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Big Fat Tycoon: it seems that someone was on the bus who helped convince K&S.
I don't parse it that way at all. I read it as "while K&S were on the bus, somebody from outside the bus contacted them". Maybe that someone was KF, maybe it was a State Department person, or maybe it was somebody else who hasn't been mentioned already. Whoever knows for sure isn't saying. (There's also the possibility that just IFDSSN9's text convinced them to go out & have fun, but I don't think that would've been sufficient.)

There was comment in the AskMeFi thread from Dimpy that maybe they were supposed to go to the Lux Lounge in DC. It seems said establishment, which plays reggae and hip-hop, which doesn't make me think they hire Russian girls for the summer. Maybe I'm being closed-minded, though. And I really wish my every-Friday-evening bar had a different name now. Sigh.
posted by knile at 11:16 AM on May 23, 2010


Awesome work, all.

Of all the things I could say right now (I've had so many responses in my head all through watching these threads), the thing I have to say is...

hahahaha Dan, someone else thinks you're a Dante geek and not a tech geek who's name is Dan. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's made this mistake.

:P
posted by Hildegarde at 11:24 AM on May 23, 2010


But seriously...

I was concerned to see the money angle get so much publicity. On one hand, I'm really happy to see how much $$ has been sent to the IFDSS9, but seeing the number appears to have put an ugly spin on things. So let me say: given that she blew off a job interview to perform this act of kindness, I hope we can all agree that it's okay for her to use some of this cash for her own cicumstances as well. A little bit toward rent? A-Okay. Right?

I hope an awesome job comes to you from this process, IFDSS9.
posted by Hildegarde at 11:29 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: In English, with profanity.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:36 AM on May 23, 2010 [17 favorites]


These threads make me want a Toronto meetup.
posted by Hildegarde at 11:40 AM on May 23, 2010


This may be premature, but IFDSSN9 was going to attend a meetup this Wednesday at a Japanese place on St. Marks. I was really looking forward to meeting her, and Ocherdraco, and a few other bookish types—as it coincides with Book Expo America. But I'd happily turn the focus of that meetup over to the Russian Incident. In fact, it would be a dream come true to finally meet Fake, who I argued with ad nauseum in this thread, but which surprisingly ended well. It would be an honor to buy a Kirin for IFDSSN9, Fake, and K&S. Assuming there's enough time to arrange such a thing. I don't know if Fake can make it that soon, but I thought I'd ask, and offer our previously scheduled NY meetup.
posted by Toekneesan at 11:42 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not to be a stick in the mud, but for the sake of appearances at least people might want to stop talking about how they have/will provide alcohol to an 18 and 20 year old in the US (yes, I know they are from Russia where it's legal at 18, but they ain't there now). I mean, go ahead and do it if you want, but maybe with the media all over this don't post about it here.
posted by amro at 11:52 AM on May 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Crap. Forgot about their ages. Offer rescinded. I will buy a fried...whatever for them instead.
posted by Toekneesan at 11:59 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It wasn't just you, Toekneesan. There have been a couple of such comments. And I know your intentions were good.
posted by amro at 12:06 PM on May 23, 2010


okay but we can still imagine him in a superhero costume with a cape right

No capes!
posted by homunculus at 1:23 PM on May 23, 2010 [12 favorites]


I was going to try to get to NYC this weekend, but the holiday weekend is borking some things. I'm going to look into alternatives tonight & tomorrow. I will post here about whatever happens.

I am starting my first week at Disney Research tomorrow morning, so things are only going to be even more insane, midweek options are probably out. Wish this wasn't such a crazy time. I would love to see K again, it's been 4 fucking years since we said goodbye IRL.
posted by fake at 1:29 PM on May 23, 2010


Another lurker here. I just registered to congratulate you all for being awesome, selfless, generous individuals.

If any one of you ever find yourself in Oslo, Norway in desperate need of a beer (they're quite expensive here), I will be of assistance.
posted by antidecaf at 3:16 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Virginia Beach thing suddenly rang a bell.

Back when I lived in the area, I used to notice lots of ~20 year old Eastern European students in the area around summertime. This always struck me as odd, given that there's no noticeable Russian community in the area, and I can't imagine Hampton Roads being particularly high on any international traveler's list of vacation destinations.

You'd particularly notice them on the buses, which is notable because the area's bus system is horrendously inefficient and almost completely unutilized by the locals. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that most of them worked at hotels and tourist attractions.

Some quick googling reveals that there indeed was a huge employment-related Russian organized crime ring operating around the area that was busted last year.

Can anybody else shed more light on this?
posted by schmod at 4:05 PM on May 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Come on Fake, you know you want a bunch of book publishers to buy you dinner and drinks, and toast you all night long. The irony alone is delicious. But hey, new gig, I dig. If it's not possible, so be it. Maybe I can make it back to the big city for when you finally use that ticket.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:22 PM on May 23, 2010


Just to reiterate from my end what has been said numerous times, but likely not enough: this was pretty awesome, inspiring, worthy of much more acknowledgement, and put out like a poster billboard.

Let's keep it up.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 4:27 PM on May 23, 2010


scmod, I can't shed light on the crime ring, but ever since fake's question went up, I've been trying to find a long article I remembered reading some years about about guest workers in Virginia Beach or Ocean City. Just now I finally remembered that it was in _The Washington Post_, so here it is: My Big Fat American Summer.
posted by jocelmeow at 4:37 PM on May 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can anybody else shed more light on this?

Well, I think this is one of those situations where a criminal thing can exist right next to a legitimate thing. I spend time every year on the Jersey shore, and there are tons and tons of Eastern European kids who work there. It's another, official, legit, summer-work-and-travel-student-visa program. When I was in high school, those kids were all from Ireland - then the Irish economy got better, and now they come from Eastern Europe.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the beach jobs - lifeguarding, dipping ice cream, running the water pistol game, what have you. They can be perfectly aboveboard. One of my good friends, an American, used to also work on the shore each summer and would share a house with a bunch of kids like this.

There doesn't need to be a Russian community to sustain this sort of activity. Lots of legitimate companies based in the US run "Summer jobs in the USA programs," just like the camp program I described, and the presence of students from overseas in a summer job doesn't mean there's a crime ring or trafficking. It can be perfectly aboveboard.

Could there also be a crime ring? Sure. But Russian kids on buses or at the mini golf course are probably not related to that.
posted by Miko at 4:48 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]



Come on Fake, you know you want a bunch of book publishers to buy you dinner and drinks, and toast you all night long. The irony alone is delicious.


Daniel in the Lion's Den? Hell yes, I'd love to.
posted by fake at 4:57 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Awesome! I'm looking forward to meeting you. (And you too Toekneesan, of course.)
posted by ocherdraco at 4:59 PM on May 23, 2010


I also cried. That thread made me glad to be human.
posted by angrycat at 5:47 PM on May 23, 2010


regarding money - if there does end up being a surplus of donations, sending the excess to a trafficking-related charity as a donation from mefi might be appropriate.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:50 PM on May 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


When I was in high school, those kids were all from Ireland - then the Irish economy got better, and now they come from Eastern Europe.

The same is true on Cape Cod, especially P-town.
posted by ericb at 6:12 PM on May 23, 2010


The Irish kids came from Cape Cod?
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:18 PM on May 23, 2010


bingo 360°
posted by gman at 6:19 PM on May 23, 2010


I hear he's a smug, self-congratulatory ass IRL, too. Of course, I have no actual evidence of that.
posted by scody at 6:34 PM on May 23, 2010


A friend of mine on Cape Cod has run a chain of sandwich restaurants since 1977, and I've seen his summer staff go from local and summer kids, to American kids from elsewhere, to Irish kids, and since 2002 or 2003 to eastern Europeans. Same for the gourmet grocery in Truro center. Those employers both have networks of old employees in Minsk and Kiev who refer new kids each summer, and they have houses in town where the summer's employees live together.

I've known a couple of the girls quite well, and they have a great summer, get around on bikes or the tourist bus, work long hours, don't get to the beach much. They make pretty good money by their standards at home; my friend Yana saved enough for a good Canon camera and lens, and is finishing journalism school in Minsk now. There's certainly no criminal element involved.
posted by nicwolff at 6:35 PM on May 23, 2010


gman, that's really pretty tragic.

Let's explore this theory: 1) the danger was real, or 2) the danger wasn't real. Now let's explore the possible solutions: 1) what happened, or 2) not doing anything. Now let's explore the result matrix, ala game theory:
             NO DANGER     DANGER

INACTION      Drudge      Very Bad
              Holiday      Things

ACTION        Once-in-a-lifetime
              Experience for K&S
                       &
      Raised Awareness of Sex Trafficking
            In Major Media Outlets
Clearly, whether or not the girls were actually in danger -- which, according to domain experts (as opposed to conspiracy theorists), they were -- we have with our actions achieved the optimal result and thereby maximised happiness.

So, I'd like to scientifically sum up this result-set as shut the fuck up.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:39 PM on May 23, 2010 [37 favorites]


I hear he's a smug, self-congratulatory ass IRL, too. Of course, I have no actual evidence of that.

If you disagree with his post, then feel free to say why, but to just lay out the insults like that is childish and I'd rather we not do that here. I, having met bingo "IRL", know that he's a brilliant individual AND(and I know he's going to hate my saying this and ruining his street cred), he is a nice guy under his prickly exterior.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:43 PM on May 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


schmod

Here's some more articles on that from google.

22 charged with massive international Visa scheme


Some visa petitions were submitted seeking to bring in substantially more alien workers than what client hotels or businesses had contracted for or needed, and that most of the alien workers brought in through the fraudulent scheme were contracted out to hotels or businesses other than those listed on their visa and were working in states other than Virginia.

Lawyer sentenced in Norfolk for role in immigration fraud ring

Beth Ann Broyles, 40, of Evanston, Ill., admitted that she filed phony immigration paperwork with the federal government, which enabled the Viktar Krus organization to bring in illegal workers.
posted by Procloeon at 6:47 PM on May 23, 2010


TPS, exactly who IS bingo and why do you think he is being so insistent here? You've met him, and I trust you, so I honestly would like your take on it. Because unless he just really is the type to be the class curmudgeon, it makes me wonder....
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:48 PM on May 23, 2010


I'm not going to do a thesis-level defense of him- he's a member of this site, just like you. Feel free to agree or disagree with him on any point you want. But I hope anyone who does so does so with respect, because he is engaging this topic in good faith and I think anyone who does so, whether they agree with me or not, deserves that.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:52 PM on May 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


OK, so we have:

- dissenting opinions shouted down: *check*

- media uncritically 'reporting' the story without serious further investigation, in order to seem up to date on the latest happenings: *check*

- some kind of WMD style bait & switch, whereby it was all about giving some girls a once-in-a-lifetime experience all along, and not necessarily saving them from sex trafficking.

Overall, though, the main thing that makes me question whether this was ever trafficking per se (as opposed to merely a shitty job setup) was that as far as I know* real traffickers make their victims helpless, by taking their passports & cash on arrival, as well as their cellphones, and not letting them make their own way across country, communicating with whoever they want, meet whoever they want, and stay wherever they want.

* At least, that's the impression I get from my (admittedly limited) exposure to movies, crime shows & occasional docos & articles on the topic, so if others like pollomacho can confirm that giving victims freedom of movement, communication & association in their new country is standard operating procedure for traffickers, then I'll defer to that knowledge, but I find it hard to believe that a hardass criminal organisation would really operate that way.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:52 PM on May 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


I hear he's a smug, self-congratulatory ass

WTF. He's allowed to express a dissenting opinion, and he even took it to his OFB rather than posting again here. And do you think that there's not smug self-congratulating going on here too?
posted by amro at 6:52 PM on May 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


Interesting tidbits on the Jersey Shore and Cape Cod -- I've actually spent a lot of time at both, and never really noticed a huge influx of foreign workers (although admittedly, I haven't been there much during the past 5 years). Unlike what that (fantastic) WaPo article suggested, most of the local businesses didn't seem to have had any trouble recruiting college students.

The situation that the girls were walking into was at best, a scam. I'm sure many others will fall for similar scams, as the WaPo article revealed the job market for J-1 visa holders is notoriously unregulated, and often times downright shady. However, in this case, we have achieved the optimal solution for these two girls, and given additional exposure to something that is a legitimate problem.
posted by schmod at 6:57 PM on May 23, 2010


seanmpuckett: Clearly, whether or not the girls were actually in danger -- which, according to domain experts (as opposed to conspiracy theorists), they were -- we have with our actions achieved the optimal result and thereby maximised happiness.

This is going to sound meaner than I intend it to, but you have to understand that to someone who's prone to defending Ayn Rand, the misplaced altruism outcome may be seen as some sort of abomination of unfairness.

To add to that, it crosses my mind that Bingo's counter-narrative may be one that is too appealing for a Randian to pass up. What a perfect example, s/he might think, of the perils of the collective! Stupid collectivists! You have wasted your resources upon the undeserving and you have the gall to pat yourselves on the back about it?

(I can't remember if I've met Bingo or not at any NYC meetups. If so, and if he's who I'm thinking of, then he does seem like a good guy. So I'm sorry about this likely unfair disparagement. I'm sure you're no Randian.)
posted by nobody at 6:57 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Could someone who understands the situation link to or explain why it's a human trafficking situation and not just a bad waitress job that rips off the travelers and sends them home disgruntled and broke? There are lots of operations like this in, say, Ireland, which bring Irish kids over to the US and make them work terrible jobs but they're just kinda ripoffs not slavery rings.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:32 AM on May 20

Suffice to say, Potomac Avenue, that is the sort of program they are supposed to be on. This ain't that kind of program.

posted by Pollomacho at 8:44 AM on May 20


I doubt that you are going to get many more details from Pollomacho for the time being.
posted by Procloeon at 7:02 PM on May 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, all you have to ask yourself is this: If these girls were my daughters, and they were involved in this scenario, what would I want people to do?

Hopefully pollomacho or others who are actually involved in law enforcement will be able to come on here and give us some generalities re what goes on re human trafficking, but from what knowledge I have (our church is involved in fundraising for groups fighting these sorts of thing) I have no problem assuming the worst from the situation.

Bottom line is that these young ladies are safe. I submit that that is all that really matters.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:05 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm fine with Bingo going off to his own blog. That is what blogs are for. The main problem I have with his narrative, which may or may not be right, is that he's set it up so that it is impossible to disprove it. Anyone who is an authority is not to be trusted, because all authorities are worthless. The young women can't be trusted, because they are cynical opportunists. That leaves only people either not involved or who have a vested interest in Bingo's narrative being true.

So, it is impossible to have a rational discussion on the subject, the way he's framed it.
posted by QIbHom at 7:14 PM on May 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


To add to that, it crosses my mind that Bingo's counter-narrative may be one that is too appealing for a Randian to pass up.

Nobody, I think Randians have their heads so far up their asses they can see daylight, but it is possible to discuss a book objectively and on it's own merits without buying into the dogma, and from the link you pointed too, I don't think Bingo is a Randian by any stretch, and I'm wondering how you've come to make that judgement of him? Just looking for some clarification.
posted by Skygazer at 7:17 PM on May 23, 2010


Bingo's narrative also implies that one of or both of fake and internet fraud detective are liars since it assumes that facts they have portrayed as true are not. It also implies that Jessamyn is not to be trusted with the doling out of information either.
posted by garlic at 7:19 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


bingo 360°

I don't want to pull a quote from another site, but I would like to respond to the basic idea that one has to go outside the site to be heard. bingo expressed disappointment in the lack of critical thinking and lack of logical response to circumstantial information.

bingo, honestly, I believe that the biggest reason that your skepticism was received badly was the tone of it. You have some interesting things to contribute to the conversation, but when you say it in a way that seems callous to people who are seriously very concerned about a situation that is just barely beginning to be resolved, you are simply not going to be heard. Why would you go up to someone who is crying in relief, and say, "Golly, you sure are overreacting to figments of your imagination! You should be more rational like me. Look how calm I am. Anyone who says I shouldn't be calm is a ninny!"

You see the value in healthy skepticism. You may wish to try some out on the effectiveness your own manner of communication. You could perhaps begin with the commenter who says they would have flagged your comment as fantastic, if not for the tone. Another person comes along and says, well, other people wouldn't have flagged it as fantastic (or favorited it, or whatever), no matter what you said, and maybe that's true. However, you also wouldn't have stoked your detractors' motivation to continue detracting.
posted by zennie at 7:21 PM on May 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


The problem is not the disagreement with the "primary narrative," it's the unfair characterization of the evidence for the primary narrative. That evidence being: the lifeguarding jobs falling through mysteriously, at the last minute; the non-Russian-speaking, non-English-speaking contact, "George," with no connection to the visa-sponsoring agency and who they had never heard of before this; the insistence that the young women go to a different city, rather than just find other jobs in Virginia Beach; the midnight meeting; the follow-up pressure to fly to San Diego.

The San Diego thing may be, to my mind, the most alarming - not so much because it's near the border, but because there's no reasonable business decision that includes flying two very young women with limited English cross-continent in order to use their skills as hotel housekeepers/lifeguards/whatever. They're not worth that much as service workers.

He also fails to address a second possibility raised, that the young women would be pressured to engage in "lesser" sex work like stripping, and that other options would not pay enough for them to live on. To me, stripping is sex work, period, and to imagine being forced into it is horrifying.

None of this is airtight, it admits of skepticism, but there it is (what we know, anyway), and if he really wants to take it apart, he should first lay it all out. Because he fails to address the strong case, and instead addresses himself to a greatly weakened version, his alternate explanation is actually quite unconvincing, though he himself seems to think it will carry the day with anyone who's willing to consider it.
posted by palliser at 7:34 PM on May 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


The main problem I have with his narrative, which may or may not be right, is that he's set it up so that it is impossible to disprove it.

The main problem with his narrative is that he's factually wrong about when the Russian women changed their minds.

According to the bingoes of this event, what should have happened after fake posted his question?
posted by dirigibleman at 7:35 PM on May 23, 2010


If bingo is skeptical, he's skeptical. I don't have a problem with skepticism in principle, I think it's a good and valuable thing to look critically at ambiguous situations. The desire to sort out the details and test assumptions is understandable.

That said, I think in this case the way he's gone about it has been at times tonedeaf and bullheaded to a degree that has been functionally antagonistic, and I wish he'd found some more neutral way to go about it. This is a weird, emotionally charged situation and a lot of people are likely to be on edge when someone doesn't just say "we should look carefully at this" but ventures into essentially thumbing their nose at people's concerns or questioning the integrity of folks closer to the situation than they are on the basis of their own suppositions.

It doesn't help that as a community we've been watching off-site discussion play out ungenerously—people being dismissive of basic facts because they don't know our community members, taking conversations about it in lulzy or sexist directions, pulling chickenshit moves like pretending to be me or jessamyn, etc. While I don't think it's intentional on bingo's or AmbroseChapel's or anyone else's parts, it's probably part of the tension here that some of the more hardcore counter-narrative stuff ends up aligned with or echoing a lot of that crappy bullshit. Not likely to improve anyone's mood, even if the conflation isn't entirely fair in a vacuum. Context matters.

It's a given that we're not going to have a full, fully sorted narrative of what is knowable about the situation for the moment. I feel like there may be sort of a weird dynamic at play here because we're having an argument on Metatalk (something we're all used to) about something that isn't really a Metatalk issue and so doesn't exactly meet our collective expectations about how an argument here goes. This situation is playing out on a larger scope than, and largely outside of, Metatalk or Metafilter, and while e.g. a mefi policy discussion can be pretty much completely transparent and produce more or less full details on demand, the real world isn't so neat or quick or forthcoming.

Which means folks are just going to have to be patient, and it'd probably do everybody a world of good—skeptics included—to adjust their sensors accordingly and maybe try to summon up some extra patience and consideration and try not to thrash at one another in the absence of satisfying news.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:35 PM on May 23, 2010 [28 favorites]


zennie, comments are enabled on bingo's blog, feel free to post over there.
posted by mlis at 7:36 PM on May 23, 2010


Feel free to agree or disagree with him on any point you want. But I hope anyone who does so does so with respect, because he is engaging this topic in good faith

I think people have picked up on the fact he is deeply, personally invested in his counter-narrative (which is based on more supposition than the narrative he's railing against), and it's... kinda weird. He's presupposing ill intent on the part of these women (whom he does not know), ill intent of the community (who, according to him, only want to pat themselves on the back), and goes on to give benefit of the doubt to an objectively and demonstrably shady organization. The facts, such as they are, do not support his precious counter-narrative.

The only actual data point he has going for him (as opposed to the stuff he pulled out of his ass) is that he stopped by the club early on a Thursday night and didn't see any dungeons with girls chained to the wall. Regardless, he was already beating this drum before he made his journey.

He may even be right, who knows. I just don't get why it's so important to him to tear down the narrative. He accuses people of conflating reality with TV, but I think he is the one guilty of that. To him, it's not a bad situation unless they are kidnapped and shipped over in a cargo container by Russian mobsters at the end of an AK47. You can only get this idea of what Bad Situations™ are from television crime shows. The reality is in the vast grey area between "shipped over in a cargo container at gunpoint" and "has options, all of them unattractive." Even if these two women were closer to the latter area, I don't see why it bugs him so much that some people actually gave a shit for once and did something about it.
posted by cj_ at 7:39 PM on May 23, 2010 [13 favorites]


regarding money - if there does end up being a surplus of donations, sending the excess to a trafficking-related charity as a donation from mefi might be appropriate.

I really don't think there's any danger of there being a surplus of donations here. IFDSS#9 sounds to have already been in an extremely tight spot. The result of her stepping in is a missed job interview and (if I read correctly) lack of space for the potential roommates who could have helped cover rent.
posted by moira at 7:42 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bingo seems to think that the Russian girls are the real puppetmasters in this situation, ready to take advantage of the stupid Americans who are sending them money and prizes.

Paying $3000 for a promised summer job that does not actually arrive, and being switched out for a humiliating strip club job/scam at the arrivals gate, does not really indicate a "puppetmaster" situation. In fact, it's a fairly shitty ordeal that nobody deserves to go through. I don't think anyone would remember that situation as the best foreign trip ever. Even if Bingo seems to believe that Russians deserve this treatment because it's par for the course in their country, I'd like to think that we know better in the United States.
posted by shii at 7:44 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nobody, I think Randians have their heads so far up their asses they can see daylight, but it is possible to discuss a book objectively and on it's own merits without buying into the dogma, and from the link you pointed too, I don't think Bingo is a Randian by any stretch, and I'm wondering how you've come to make that judgement of him? Just looking for some clarification.

Skygazer, I'm not sure I want to get in a back and forth about it, but note that I did say (directed toward bingo) "I'm sure you're no Randian."

That said, I think it's fair to point out to what sort of mindset bingo's counter-narrative may strongly appeal, especially since that's precisely the sort of argument he was leveling against the original narrative and its dupes/proponents. Maybe I should have left out the explicit Rand stuff and just written "Stupid collectivists! You have wasted your resources upon the undeserving and you have the gall to pat yourselves on the back about it?" I do stand by that interpretation.
posted by nobody at 7:46 PM on May 23, 2010


The level of obtuseness and naivete that is required to believe this was NOT sex trafficking is just mind-blowing. Maybe not everyone here has read the links passed around earlier on in the threads, but Lux Lounge was shown (via Myspace links) to be a venue for "stripper/escort events." And these women were treated to the classic bait-and-switch that experts tell us precedes the initiation into sex trafficking. And they were told to arrive at midnight. This was sex trafficking, plain and simple. The folks who say, "But they were allowed to make their way across the country," seem to expect the women to have been met at the airport by a man saying, "Hi, I'll be your sex trafficker today," in order for this to have been sex trafficking. Ridiculous.
posted by jayder at 7:48 PM on May 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


And I think what we're seeing from bingo (as scody pointed out) is a desperate attempt to save face. The smug "I'm definitely going back" conclusion to his review of Lux Lounge is laugh-out-loud pathetic.
posted by jayder at 7:52 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Even if Bingo seems to believe that Russians deserve this treatment because it's par for the course in their country

Oh, and that. His characterization of these women (that they are "used to" prostitution/sex trafficking, and therefore came here not only expecting that, but looking for it, despite, you know, paying good money for the promise of a job as a lifeguard) is seriously offensive. How do you even end up thinking that?

Gah. Stepping away for a while.
posted by cj_ at 7:55 PM on May 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


This quote from bingo's blog sums it up for me quite nicely:

Mavri said at 10:25 pm on May 23rd, 2010:

I think something shady was going on, and I admire fake and Katherine for stepping in and doing what they could. But I’ll admit I became very uncomfortable when I learned that $4000–a huge amount of money in my world–was apparently not enough and more donations were desired. When I first saw how much money had been donated, I thought, “Awesome, they can take care of the girls and Katherine can have some help with rent or whatever.” But they need more? I’m not sure why it bothers me so much. It may be my own work with poor people that makes me shocked at the amount of money being spent. It’s why I’ll be donating to the loq fund and not this one. It’s also sad that expressing doubt or questioning the prevailing narrative gets you called an ass. I think of Metafilter as a community that embraces skepticism. Its performance in this case has been both awe-inspiring and disappointing.
posted by gman at 7:55 PM on May 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


It doesn't bother me, gman. There may be legal expenses in there. Things have happened so quickly that there hasn't been time to find the most cost effective way of doing things. NYC is a *very* expensive place.

That would be a lot of money in my world, but I'm a penny pincher who trades a lot of time for money. IFDS hasn't had time. Nor was she dealing with a normal, boring, routine world where it is easy to save money.
posted by QIbHom at 8:02 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Plus a lot of that money has been frozen by PayPal.
posted by QIbHom at 8:04 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, as shii notes, it's a bit rich to complain that the community got all ad hom on dissenters and then be like, Russian girls don't mind whoring and corruption anyway. Shit, that's just part of the adventure for them!
posted by palliser at 8:07 PM on May 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the majority of that money is inaccessible at the moment, since most people contributed via PayPal.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:09 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


At the least, a little good was accomplished. At the best, a great good was done. For any other alternative would be to believe in the worst of nearly all the people involved. I'd rather not live in a world where that was my primary means of viewing it.
posted by Atreides at 8:09 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


A second plea for people to be patient about this.

Realize this: the evidence that could be used to prove to you that this was in fact part of a sex trafficking (or just illegal work for hire) system, is probably also the evidence that would be required for people who can take real action to do something about it (federal agencies, etc.). Right now that information is only really be useful to one of these two parties.

I realize there are folks who want to be Right About Something on the Internet™, but I am sure the individuals who have that information would rather let you feel smugly superior for the next few weeks and months while the people who have the legal authority to actually do something productive in society take action.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:13 PM on May 23, 2010 [13 favorites]


Nobody: but note that I did say (directed toward bingo) "I'm sure you're no Randian."

It was directed towards someone you remember from a meet-up who might be Bingo. But, initially you seem to think he's a Randian simply from his discussion of Atlas Shrugged being dropped on Don Draper's desk in Mad Men, and how the same thing happens to him all the time. Perhaps, I'm wrong and he is into Randian ideology, but he sounded pretty objective and detached from the subject, and also sorry he can't be as excited about Rand as his co-workers seem to get.
posted by Skygazer at 8:14 PM on May 23, 2010


Or another way to put, since we are debating about an illegal activity that possibly includes multiple organizations and crosses international boundaries: the evidence that the skeptics demand in order to be proven wrong is also evidence that could be used in a legal proceeding. Since releasing that information would jeopardizing that legal proceeding, you probably aren't going to get your evidence anytime soon.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:17 PM on May 23, 2010


And for god's sake let this please not descend into some kind of argument-by-proxy about the merits of the philosophy and narrative fiction of Ayn Rand.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:20 PM on May 23, 2010 [17 favorites]


This thread goes on much longer, we'll probably end up discussing the merits of nuts versus no nuts in chocolate chip cookies, if Santa Claus is "real," how many revolutions Brazil has had (and how one defines "revolution") and the merits of Madonna's various hairstyles.

After that, it'll descend into a discussion of Klingon grammar, in Esperanto.
posted by QIbHom at 8:25 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Plus a lot of that money has been frozen by PayPal.

Indeed, but this was not the case when she asked for more, and donations continued for hours after that tally was posted.
posted by gman at 8:30 PM on May 23, 2010


Chocolate chip cookies ought only have one non-cookie-making ingredient in them: Namely, chocolate chips.

Oatmeal cookies however are a different matter.
posted by Gordafarin at 8:37 PM on May 23, 2010


Indeed, but this was not the case when she asked for more, and donations continued for hours after that tally was posted.

It's sad how quickly ifdssn9's obvious greed overcame any credit I was giving her for her good deed. I wonder if she did this solely to rake in bucks.

/hamburger
posted by jayder at 8:43 PM on May 23, 2010


NYC is a *very* expensive place.

And a place I've lived for 18 years and I do not understand how $4000 isn't enough. When I initially posted about this, I hadn't thought about the difference between donations and actual cash on the ground. So, if the issue is that the $4000 isn't available, then I'm sympathetic and apologize for my question about the money. If cash is needed now, and the excess paypal money will be donated to a charity or something when it's released, then that's not the situation as I understood it and not what I was reacting to. I thought the $4000 was ready and available when Katherine said more donations were welcome. Again, I think something bad was going on, and I think Katherine and fake are good people. I've spent a lot of time working with poor people in New York City, and maybe that's why asking for more than $4000 is hard for me. I know very well how far $4000 can go here.
posted by Mavri at 8:44 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


gman, she was responding to this (and quoted it):

do you need any MORE no-strings-attached gift money?

If you are not giving no-strings-attached-gift money, perhaps you should not worry about where the money those of us who did is going. Just a thought.
posted by cj_ at 8:46 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


How much do lawyers charge per hour, folks?

We don't have enough information to judge. We may never have enough information. We certainly won't any time soon.
posted by QIbHom at 8:47 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


> The San Diego thing may be, to my mind, the most alarming - not so much because it's near the border, but because there's no reasonable business decision that includes flying two very young women with limited English cross-continent in order to use their skills as hotel housekeepers/lifeguards/whatever. They're not worth that much as service workers.

Unless I'm confused, you're assuming the bad guys were paying their air-fares?

And when everyone mentions "the border", are they assuming that the girls would have been trafficked to Mexico/Central/South America?

The links to organised crime and importation of foreign workers in Virginia contain no mention of sex trafficking or anything like it, unless I'm missing something. In fact all they say is that the organisation acted as a cheap, off-the-books employment agency which undercut real employment agencies and didn't pay taxes.

I've finally got around to reading this link: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2010/mar/01/safe-house-sex-trafficking-victims-opens-san-diego/, proffered as evidence that San Diego is an international hub for sex trafficking ... and although the host seems to believe that, the law enforcement official and outreach worker interviewed both say exactly the opposite, that international involvement is extremely unusual.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:57 PM on May 23, 2010


"Russian citizen, agreed and left the suitcases in Katherine."

This explains so much.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:59 PM on May 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


What should have happened after fake asked his original question?
posted by dirigibleman at 9:04 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


gman, are you collecting donations for a Mefite in need without a specific 95 point plan and receipt copying protocol RIGHT NOW, or am I mistaken? What exactly is your beef here, and what's motivating it?
posted by rollbiz at 9:05 PM on May 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Separate post to say, shii and cj_, I think it's incredibly unfair for you to twist bingo's words about the girls the way you did. He wrote "they had grown up in a world in which corruption and prostitution are neither uncommon nor poorly understood", it's perfectly clear what he meant. For you to turn that into "he thinks they deserve it" is shameful.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:05 PM on May 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


>The San Diego thing may be, to my mind, the most alarming - not so much because it's near the border, but because there's no reasonable business decision that includes flying two very young women with limited English cross-continent in order to use their skills as hotel housekeepers/lifeguards/whatever. They're not worth that much as service workers.

Unless I'm confused, you're assuming the bad guys were paying their air-fares?


Ambrose, it sounded like the women low on cash-and last minute trans-continental flights are expensive. If the travel company wouldn't pay for it, how would they reasonably expect them to buy the tickets?
posted by dinty_moore at 9:07 PM on May 23, 2010


Oh and, reminder, something I still don't understand. The girls have a travel agent, and they have a sponsor, who as far as we know, believed the girls were in Virginia doing a legitimate job.

Who is the sponsor, do people still believe them to be legitimate and how does it happen that the girls were redirected, by a travel agent without the sponsor's knowledge?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:17 PM on May 23, 2010


I think it's incredibly unfair for you to twist bingo's words about the girls the way you did. He wrote "they had grown up in a world in which corruption and prostitution are neither uncommon nor poorly understood", it's perfectly clear what he meant. For you to turn that into "he thinks they deserve it" is shameful

What the hell?

"They had peers who had made similar journeys, and they had grown up in a world in which corruption and prostitution are neither uncommon nor poorly understood. They went into the situation with their eyes open, wanting the adventure"

His meaning is perfectly clear if you read the whole fucking thing and not just pick a contextless sentence fragment out of it. In his mind, they are women who came here expecting prostitution, are totally okay with it, but found an even better gig receiving paypal money from naive do-gooders. This is such an uncharitable view of everyone involved that this here cynical is just slack-jawed.

BTW, gman, et al, if you donated money and are now upset that it is not going to whatever you expected, or you think they have enough, please memail me and I will reimburse you for it so you can donate it elsewhere. I am serious.
posted by cj_ at 9:20 PM on May 23, 2010 [23 favorites]


: zennie, comments are enabled on bingo's blog, feel free to post over there.

Thanks, but I think the appropriate place to talk about MetaTalk commentary is right here. I find bingo's blog post pretty distasteful, but I've little I want to say about that.
posted by zennie at 9:22 PM on May 23, 2010


There's been plenty of critical thinking and concern over some of the hyperbole in this thread, and for bingo to ignore the bits that disagree with his angle is irritating.

Well, I think this is one of those situations where a criminal thing can exist right next to a legitimate thing. I spend time every year on the Jersey shore, and there are tons and tons of Eastern European kids who work there. It's another, official, legit, summer-work-and-travel-student-visa program. When I was in high school, those kids were all from Ireland - then the Irish economy got better, and now they come from Eastern Europe.


Seconded. For those of you who haven't been to your favorite resort town in the last four of five years, things have changed, and there are now tons of Eastern European kids working as part of this sort of program.
posted by desuetude at 9:24 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unless I'm confused, you're assuming the bad guys were paying their air-fares?

I don't think they have money for a last-minute flight out West, so it wouldn't be a completely out-there assumption. But even if the women were asked to pay, the suggestion is ridiculous as part of a "help these young ladies get a menial summer job as lifeguards or similar" plan. San Diego? From DC, by way of New York? There's plenty of summer work up and down the East Coast. It's just a bizarre suggestion, if the point is legitimate J-1 visa work. (Note that the MeFites who offered summer-job suggestions restricted themselves, just as an unspoken matter of common sense, to Jersey Shore, mid-Atlantic coast, Cape Cod. Nobody brought up their aunt with a hotel in Hawaii.)

A brick is not a wall, and this detail is not alone damning. But again, any alternate theories I've seen have just left out important pieces of evidence, rather than addressing them.
posted by palliser at 9:28 PM on May 23, 2010


> Who is the sponsor, do people still believe them to be legitimate and how does it happen that the girls were redirected, by a travel agent without the sponsor's knowledge?

Chances are you aren't going to get this information today, or even before this thread closes, as chances are the people who do know that aren't going to mention it, as I will quote myself:

Since we are debating about an illegal activity that possibly includes multiple organizations and crosses international boundaries: the evidence that the skeptics demand in order to be proven wrong is also evidence that could be used in a legal proceeding. Since releasing that information would jeopardize that legal proceeding, you probably aren't going to get your evidence anytime soon.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:28 PM on May 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


the law enforcement official and outreach worker interviewed both say exactly the opposite, that international involvement is extremely unusual.

Actually, they both hedge. The first says
Specifically for the number of cases that I’ve worked, I have not worked any that have been an international state. Every single one of my victims have been either local, from San Diego, or from somewhere within the United States, mostly either a border state or not, that have been brought here by their pimp for purposes of prostitution.


But he's talking about cases he's worked, and he says that " Almost every single one of my investigations have started with or involved MySpace one way or the other" and that he works specifically on domestic cases for the Innocence Lost project. Since he's not investigating international trafficking, I'm not surprised he doesn't present himself as an expert about international trafficking, and confines himself only to "the number of cases that I've worked."

And the other woman, from Generate Hope, says
"I think the great majority are domestic trafficking victims. One of our new residents is an international victim and she has had a successful case against her perpetrator. But I think it is very unusual."
However, her group's website says

San Diego is an international gateway city for sex trafficking

I think the point is that both these people are working for programs that concentrate on intervening in domestic prostitution cases. Neither seems to be qualified to characterize any international trafficking and both recognize that they can't make categorical statements like "it's extremely unusual," so neither of them does.

Meanwhile, there are many documents returning on search results which mention international sex trade cases centering on San Diego:
May 1996 San Diego, CA
JapaneseProstitution Scam
3,000 + Mexico, Japan, United States
In a joint investigation, Mexican and American police bust a 10-year old trafficking and
prostitution ring that exploited upwards of 3,000 women. The ring, which operated out of San Diego, Tokyo and Guadalajara, had close ties with the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. The women were brought to Japan, sold to seedy clubs and forced to cater to the sexual whims of buyers.

August 1999
San Diego, CA San Ysidro
Border Crossing
10+ Russia
Two young Russian women and a Russian-American man were stopped at the US-Mexican
border and accused of using false immigration documents. The incident led to charges against the man and his wife, who stand accused of running an international prostitution ring. According to INS investigators, the couple trafficked women from Moscow to brothels in
Southern, CA.

San Diego Union Tribune, 2004:
A buyer named Gordey Vinitsky arrived around dinner time. He was followed by Komisaruk's husband, Valery, who led Vinitsky to a van in the parking lot. Inside were six young Ukrainian women. Vinitsky bought two of them for $10,000 each. They were delivered to San Diego by boat where Vinitsky claimed his purchases.
posted by Miko at 9:29 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh and, reminder, something I still don't understand. The girls have a travel agent, and they have a sponsor, who as far as we know, believed the girls were in Virginia doing a legitimate job.

Who is the sponsor, do people still believe them to be legitimate and how does it happen that the girls were redirected, by a travel agent without the sponsor's knowledge?


I think the assumption is that the sponsor is also not legitimate. There's even less concrete evidence to back that up, however.

In my mind (I can't speak for anyone else here), I can't imagine that any sponsor wouldn't have pulled out when the lifeguard positions fell through-before the women even arrived in the US. The 'oh, it doesn't matter-come over anyway!' response from the travel agency seems hinky.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:31 PM on May 23, 2010


Holy conspiracy theories batman. Can we all just calm down for 5 minutes and see how everything plays out?

Skeptics: If you're right about this all being an over-reaction, good for you. That doesn't change the current situation of two young girls far away from home with no money, no jobs, and nowhere permanent to live.

To those of you arguing that IFDS/Fake have taken advantage of this situation (which I absolutely believe they haven't), continuing to argue that point here isn't going to do anything but cause everyone a lot of greif that they really don't need right now. Even if this was a huge scam, the amount of attention focused on the key players (and the amount of personal info they've put out there) would make it really easy for you and your internet vigilante friends to bring them to justice.

Lets all just take a deep breath and start a new week, mmkay?
posted by dantekgeek at 9:32 PM on May 23, 2010


Oh and, reminder, something I still don't understand. The girls have a travel agent, and they have a sponsor, who as far as we know, believed the girls were in Virginia doing a legitimate job.

Who is the sponsor, do people still believe them to be legitimate and how does it happen that the girls were redirected, by a travel agent without the sponsor's knowledge?


Yes, Ambrose, that is weird. I think that's one of the things that made the situation look really suspicious in the original thread.
posted by nangar at 9:33 PM on May 23, 2010


In case the people concerned about the money missed it, ifdssn9 posted an explanation for why she is worried about 4K not being enough. However, it should be noted that people who have given gift money have said, over and over, that she should use it however she sees fit, even for herself, which is hardly unreasonable considering that she is unemployed and recovering from surgery on top of all this nonsense.
posted by zennie at 9:37 PM on May 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Separate post to say, shii and cj_, I think it's incredibly unfair for you to twist bingo's words about the girls the way you did. He wrote "they had grown up in a world in which corruption and prostitution are neither uncommon nor poorly understood", it's perfectly clear what he meant. For you to turn that into "he thinks they deserve it" is shameful.

I don't think cj_ and shii are saying what you think they are saying.

I would say that "grown[ing] up in a world in which corruption and prostitution are neither uncommon nor poorly understood" may in fact make someone desensitized to sketchy situations and more likely to press their luck.

I think the only common characteristics among skeptics in this thread is a extreme lack of reading comprehension and constant omission of important context. <-This is what annoys people. Not the the skepticism.
posted by Procloeon at 9:40 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


As far as money goes: This is the kind of thing where I wish you would just memail me/email me/text me and ask instead of assuming the worst and posting about it on an external website, you know? It's easy for me to forget to post something or type something quickly that sounds bad, and I am happy to clarify anything that sounds weird or off. I don't want anyone to feel taken advantage of or cheated.

--None of it has gotten to me from PayPal, and in fact the PayPal access is till limited and I can't even initiate a transfer of most of it, so the cash from local Mefites is the first money we have actually been able to access. If I had $4000 in cash I don't think I would need more cash.

--We're keeping receipts for pretty much everything except for the spending money I gave to K and S and some corner store snack stuff. The cash that we have gotten has been enormously helpful, most recently for fixing K's cell phone. Most of it is in an envelope waiting for an unexpected emergency which I hope never comes. At some point I will scan and post the receipts that I have just to be above-board about it.

--They now have a free lawyer which is a huge relief. I probably should have expected that but I am new to this, and am not an expert on how these things work or what things cost, or what resources are available.

--They are in the room that we usually rent out for a decent chunk of our rent. However, at this point it's not a huge deal, if we had friends we would have them stay there for free and so why not do the same for K and S? So we won't be reimbursing ourselves for it. If it gets to be more like a month, we'll think about it.

--I have been thinking about what to do with any excess money. That decision is a work in progress. The issue with declaring it excessive and deciding right away what to do with it is because there are still a lot of potential things that K and S might need help with, including airfare, emergency medical care, expenses even after they leave, and other stuff I'm probably not remembering.

--I am not the only person who is making this decision--there are multiple stakeholders involved including the people who gave the money, K and S, Fake (who has expenses as well), heck, even my husband (our bank account and apartment are shared).

I understand the concerns here. Like I said above, I would appreciate it if you just asked me directly if you think something is sketchy or weird before assuming the worst. I don't bite and I'm not as busy I was a few days ago.

Thanks again, all.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:43 PM on May 23, 2010 [34 favorites]


I disagree that bingo's words have been twisted in any way. He suggested that the young women knew they were going into sex work of some sort and were okay with that:
they had grown up in a world in which corruption and prostitution are neither uncommon nor poorly understood. They went into the situation with their eyes open, wanting the adventure, believing themselves capable of negotiating whatever obstacles they encountered. They didn’t expect the agency to be on the level. They had considered the possibility that, as women in their early 20s with little or no English, there was a limited range of employment options waiting for them.
Sorry if I have a hard time accepting that these kinds of opinions proceed from good faith. It would take a lot for me to believe that a woman who accepted a job as a lifeguard really wanted and expected to be offered a replacement gig as a stripper, and "well, she's Russian" is an especially yucky way to explain a leap like that.
posted by palliser at 9:43 PM on May 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


Turns out the free JetBlue tickets won't work because it's a holiday weekend, so the money donated in my direction will be spent on a plane ticket to NYC. As mentioned above the remainder will go to the people in NYC.

And a member of this site has offered to tutor me in math free of charge, which is amazing.

Upthread, I said I respect skepticism. That is true. However, I do not respect the really ugly projection happening here and elsewhere. I have known K for 5 years. She did not expect this to happen, and did not knowingly walk into this situation. That is fact.

Furthermore, there are a lot of things that can not and will not be shared here. If, at this point, you can't see that my first priority is keeping these two safe, and that their safety might involve withholding some information, and that even I do not know every detail, your forest and trees have been exchanged.

And furthermore, satisfying the inflamed curiosity of random unsatisfied people on the internet is far below the threshold of my attention, and will remain so. Remember my question? "I need some help handling and understanding how to handle this" That's exactly what I got, and exactly what is and was necessary and ongoing.

Keeping the girls from meeting the contact was only the beginning, there is still a lot to be done, and I am doing it, along with a host of other people and agencies.

And if there is extra money, it will be handled appropriately. Getting all projective about that helps no one.
posted by fake at 9:46 PM on May 23, 2010 [54 favorites]


My statement in my last post should have some addition information since misquoting is rampant in this thread.

I would say that "grown[ing] up in a world in which corruption and prostitution are neither uncommon nor poorly understood" may in fact make someone desensitized to sketchy situations and more likely to press their luck and ignore red flags and warnings from concerned friends.

posted by Procloeon at 9:52 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also I am pretty excited to be called hip (thanks bingo) but I do not live in Brooklyn. I understand the mistake because when I met you it was at a Brooklyn meetup.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:55 PM on May 23, 2010


> His meaning is perfectly clear if you read the whole fucking thing and not just pick a contextless sentence fragment out of it. In his mind, they are women who came here expecting prostitution, are totally okay with it

> He suggested that the young women knew they were going into sex work of some sort and were okay with that

Well to me, that's both unfair and untrue. It's abundantly clear to me that he simply meant "they weren't sheltered, ignorant young women who didn't even know corruption and prostitution existed and thus could be easily misled" and if there's no middle ground between that and "they were prostitutes" for you, well, I won't even finish that sentence.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:59 PM on May 23, 2010


Hey you guys. Um. I have NO fucking intention of catching up on this thread over the past 500 comments, because after meeting fake yesterday at the LA meetup and getting this story in further detail and firsthand, I am just not amused by all this drama and sleuthing and counter-sleuthing and biZARRE projecting.

It's just not interesting, and it's ugly.

It's ugliest to me because I'm pretty sure if these girls hadn't had this PARTICULAR stateside friend, they would very likely be trapped in a spiral of total isolation and ruination, and it's JUST CHANCE that they had an intelligent, tough, completely capable friend like fake here to take action. I'm impressed as HELL with how he's doing the right thing despite all kinds of inconveniences, stressed, and flak. And can't we just spare him the flak?

So just fucking can it. Or don't, hey, go nuts. But it's stupid. Really. And I don't want to think people are petulant pedantic weasels, so I don't want to read it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:01 PM on May 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


Another question. Why are we still being all coy about the women's real names, considering fake told Mother Jones those names?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 10:02 PM on May 23, 2010


fake: do you have a place to stay in NYC?
posted by dantekgeek at 10:03 PM on May 23, 2010




Sorry, NSFW.
posted by fake at 10:07 PM on May 23, 2010


fake: do you have a place to stay in NYC?

Had discussed staying with Kathrine, but nothing concrete yet. Hard to coordinate here. Should have the ticket within an hour.
posted by fake at 10:10 PM on May 23, 2010


His meaning is perfectly clear if you read the whole fucking thing and not just pick a contextless sentence fragment out of it.

I read the whole thing and bingo's hypothesis put me in mind of friends who would go somewhere hinky or hang-out with unsavory people or engage in potentially dangerous activities because they believed it could make for good times so long as they kept their wits about them. They weren't whores or idiots, they were bright and confident people, sometimes too bright and confident for their own good, interested in having an adventure. If he's saying inside every Eastern European woman is a prostitute just waiting to turn for Yankee greenbacks, I'm having trouble seeing it.

It would be nice if this community that really enjoys projecting a collective image of intelligence and humour and thoughtfulness could refrain from jumping down the throat of anyone who is uncomfortable with the approved narrative being pushed both within and without MeFi. I get that there many non-principals that are personally/emotionally/financially invested in this situation, but it sort of takes the blush off the Newsweek/Mother Jones-certified rose to browbeat, mock, and insult those who are reluctant to prostrate themselves and kiss the hem of MeFi's garment on this one.

(To be clear, I am not speaking of the actual actors in this story, who've graciously and classily refrained from directing the more ecstatic participants of this sometimes frenzied orgy of self-congratulation to tear apart any who've registered their disagreement or discomfort with aspects of the story, despite the apparent Maenad-like willingness of some to do just that.)
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:11 PM on May 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


What should have happened after fake posted his original question?
posted by dirigibleman at 10:12 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Had discussed staying with Kathrine, but nothing concrete yet. Hard to coordinate here. Should have the ticket within an hour."

You can totally stay with me! We have groceries for the eatin' and a loft bed in my living room.

With the warning that...we also live/sleep/eat in my living room and it is rather cozy.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:13 PM on May 23, 2010


ifds, fake, I commend your sacrificial service! Please don't let the doubters and contrarians discourage you or cause you to spend time, energy and emotions on questions that cannot now and perhaps may never be answered to their satisfaction. Being new to MeFi, I don't know all of the specific personalities and dynamics -- but I've seen similar things on other forums, as well as in life generally, and it's apparently a law of nature that every good thing generates mystifying opposition. I hope those with sincere questions and concerns will rethink their doubts -- after all, the evidence and indicators of potential harm are substantial -- and that those on a different mission will pause and reflect for a moment, as to whether or not their comments are really necessary or helpful.
posted by LeslieRCLC at 10:14 PM on May 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think even for natural skeptics, seanmpuckett's analysis is the right one. It's just plain old utility theory...the potential downside of not helping them so far outweighed the potential downside of helping them or doing nothing that the current result is clearly a win regardless of the the likelihood of the other potential branches.

The only possible negative argument for the current outcome is some abstract philosophizing "cry wolf" nonsense where the hyperbole and wasted effort/money will result in someone not getting help later or something or that some people got a bit of free money, but since the whole basis of the skepticism is "we didn't know if it was really going to be human trafficking", then I'd say the unknowability of the future "cry wolf" argument is vastly higher than the unknowability of whether it was trafficking.

In other words, skepticism is good and healthy and people shouldn't shout it down (although skeptics should be careful with their tone if they want to be listened to with an open mind), but complaining about the current outcome seems nuts given the other potential outcomes.

It seems like a great thing happened here, where "great" is defined as anywhere from "didn't do any harm" to "saved lives". Yay internet!

I did not sign up because of this thread, but I may or may not have had to send a username/password reminder because of this thread.
posted by checker at 10:22 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


With the warning that...we also live/sleep/eat in my living room and it is rather cozy.

After the crushing bear hugs I'm going to give all of you, cozy will feel cavernous.

Pluz, I travel lite.
posted by fake at 10:23 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Awesome! Let me know your flights and stuff so I can make sure someone's here to let you in, and we will be happy and go to meetups.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:26 PM on May 23, 2010