It turns out that an FBI sting operation implicating a “Muslim Somali gang” that ran a teen-sex ring in at least three states was totally bogus, surely upending the lives of at least two dozen Somali and Ethiopian immigrants in the Minneapolis area.
A court opinion (pdf) released last week showed that federal prosecutors in the case had no evidence of a child sex trafficking conspiracy beyond the testimony of two teenagers, one of whose testimony was likely fabricated with the help of a police officer, and the other who had a diagnosed mental illness and was off her medication, according to a report by Reason.com.
In initially announcing the bust in 2010, the FBI claimed that “between 2000 and 2010, members and associates of the gangs transported underage Somali and African-American females [Jane Doe 1 through Jane Doe 5] from the Minneapolis area to Nashville for the purpose of having the females engage in sex acts for money.” The FBI also said that some of the victims were “13 years of age and younger.”
In reality, the operation—which led to charges against 30 individuals, sex-trafficking convictions for three, and an eight year legal battle—was a fiction crafted by two troubled teenagers, a member of the FBI’s human-trafficking task force, and an array of overzealous officials. An opinion released this week by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals shows that federal prosecutors had no evidence whatsoever to support their “child sex trafficking conspiracy” case outside the seriously flawed testimony of two teenagers, one of whom had “been diagnosed as insane and was off her medication.”
The case apparently received a lot of attention at the time, and the FBI described it as its biggest human trafficking success to date.
Except it wasn’t.
Reason.com reports that the case started in November 2008, when St. Paul, Minn., police officer and FBI sex trafficking task force member Heather Weyker went to check in on Jane Doe 2, who had been briefly incarcerated in juvenile detention earlier that year.
The parents declined to let Officer Weyker talk to their daughter, so Weyker began meeting with the girl at school in secret. Those meetings were recorded at least 30 times, resulting in thousands of pages of notes and transcripts.
In 2012, Idris Ibrahim Fahra, Andrew Kayachith and Yassin Abdirahman Yusuf were found guilty of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children by force, fraud or coercion. The three men were also charged with child sex trafficking and attempted child sex trafficking. Six others were acquitted. A District Court overturned their convictions in late 2012, but the government appealed the decision.