Equality Now Commends Manhattan District Attorney's Office for First Sex Tourism Conviction in the Country
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
24 May 2007
Contact: Lakshmi Anantnarayan, 212-586-0906, firstname.lastname@example.org
New York – Equality Now welcomes the decision of a jury that convicted Manhattan-based sex tour operator Saeed Ahmed in the Supreme Court of New York County on Tuesday, May 22, 2007. Ahmed was found guilty of three counts of promoting prostitution in the third degree, a D Felony, under which he could be imprisoned for up to three years.
Saeed Ahmed operated Jump Off Destinations a sex tour company that offered sex tours from New York to the Dominican Republic. Through his website, Ahmed provided pictures of women with whom potential sex tourists could arrange to have sex on the tour. He organized three levels of tours, and the numbers of “guaranteed” sex tour partners varied with each level. Jump Off Destinations is one of several other sex tour companies that advertise on Craig’s List. In February 2006, Equality Now brought this case to the attention of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. The office was quick to respond to the case and Saeed Ahmed was arrested in May 2006 for violating New York state law that prohibits the promotion of prostitution.
The jury’s decision in Tuesday’s case is particularly noteworthy because this is the first time that the New York state law prohibiting the promotion of prostitution was used to successfully convict a sex tour operator. For over eleven years Equality Now has campaigned for the prosecution of Big Apple Oriental Tours, a sex tour company based out of Queens, which also violated the same state law. Although Big Apple Oriental Tours was effectively shut down in 2003 by a temporary restraining order obtained by then New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in a civil lawsuit, the criminal case is still pending. After a first criminal indictment, an appeal, a second criminal indictment and second appeal, the criminal case has been referred back to the Dutchess County Court for trial, which is now set for June, 2007.
Expanding on the national significance of this case Ken Franzblau, Equality Now’s Trafficking Program Director explained, “Since New York’s laws against promoting prostitution are very similar to many other states we hope this case sets a precedent and that prosecutors in other states will use their laws to prosecute sex tour operators in their jurisdictions.” Welcoming the decision, Equality Now’s Executive Director Taina Bien-Aimé said, “It is commendable that New York State has interpreted the law in a manner under which sex tour operators can be indicted. It is unfortunate, however, that we need to rely solely on such action at the state level, in spite of having a federal law that clearly prohibits the operation of sex tours in the country.” Since 2004 Equality Now has called without success on the Justice Department to prosecute G&F Tours, a sex tour company in Fort Worth, Texas, that blatantly violates specific provisions of the Mann Act, the federal law that makes the operation of sex tours in the US illegal.