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United States v. D-2 Janette Gaggo Tawfik

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 25, 2017



          MARK A. GOLDSMITH United States District Judge

         A grand jury indicted Defendant Janette Tawfik on six charges stemming from her alleged role in an extensive human trafficking and drug-distribution conspiracy at the Victory Inn hotel (the “Victory Inn”) on Michigan Avenue in Detroit, Michigan (Dkt. 17). Each charge carries a statutory presumption of detention. Applying both sides' proffered evidence to the factors in 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g), this Court finds that Tawfik has rebutted the presumption of detention. Nevertheless, for the reasons stated below, the Court orders Tawfik detained pending trial.

         I. BACKGROUND

         After a hearing, the magistrate judge found that Tawfik could not overcome the presumption of detention and ordered her detained because there is no “combination of conditions that would reasonably assure the safety of the community.” See Detention Order at 2 (Dkt. 28). Tawfik gave oral notice of her intent to seek pretrial release from this Court, but did not file any written appeal or motion. This Court held a hearing on her request for pretrial release on April 6, 2017, at which both sides proffered evidence. Following the hearing, this Court ordered both sides to submit proposed orders (Dkt. 39), which they timely did.

         A. The Government's Proffered Information

         The Government's primary argument is dangerousness, but it also argues that Tawfik is a flight risk. The Government proffered the following items to support detention: (i) the pretrial services report recommending detention, (ii) 11 video clips from the Victory Inn's surveillance system, (iii) eleven screen shots from the Government's pole camera video, (iv) 13 independent victim and witness statements - eight of which described Tawfik's criminal involvement, and (v) the criminal histories of the co-defendants. From these sources, the Government claimed that the following facts support detention.

         1. The Initial Investigation and Surveillance

         The federal investigation began in September 2016, when a human trafficking and heroin overdose victim (“Victim 1”) told federal agents from Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) about a conspiracy for the sale of women and drugs at the Victory Inn, orchestrated by Tawfik's co-defendant Darrick “Tone” Bell, a convicted murderer and drug dealer with several firearms convictions. Victim 1 stated that she had swallowed the drugs to avoid detection, as ordered by Bell, leading to her emergency room conversation with HSI agents.

         In subsequent interviews, Victim 1 confirmed that Bell is the leader of the conspiracy, that he uses drugs to coerce the human-trafficking victims, and that she was terrified of his physical assaults. Victim 1 said that the Victory Inn staff was part of the conspiracy and would direct sex dates to certain rooms.

         Another human trafficking victim (“Victim 2”) described an extensive drug and human-trafficking operation headed by Bell, in which she and other women had been held against their will for several weeks. Victim 2 stated that the conspirators forced women to perform sex acts for money in exchange for a room at Victory Inn and for drugs to support their addictions. Victim 2 said that the Victory Inn staff was complicit in the criminal activity, and that they only use a handful of rooms at the hotel for legitimate customers.

         On November 3, 2016, Detroit Police and Detroit EMS responded to a female drug overdose victim (“Victim 3”) in room 118 at the Victory Inn. While assessing Victim 3, Detroit Police talked to co-defendant Terry “T” Pruitt at the door of room 118. On a Detroit Police bodycam video, Pruitt casually discusses the fact that he can procure prostitutes for customers.

         On November 4, 2016, Detroit police spoke to a female victim (“Victim 4”) at a gas station near the Victory Inn. Victim 4 stated that she was a prostitute who lived at the Victory Inn and that Bell frequently delivered drugs to the hotel. A few days later, HSI installed a nearby pole camera to conduct surveillance on the Victory Inn.

         On November 23, 2016, a reliable confidential informant told police that multiple drug dealers, including co-defendant Shelvie Avery (also known as “Q”), were working out of the Victory Inn. The informant said that Avery rents rooms out of the Victory Inn to work as many as eight prostitutes, and he sells heroin and crack cocaine. This informant subsequently told police that the Middle Eastern female manager (which accurately describes Tawfik) frequently spoke with Avery in private.

         In early December, Detroit Police began conducting surveillance at the Victory Inn along with HSI. They observed dozens of apparent hand-to-hand drug deals and commercial sex dates in several different rooms. The police performed traffic stops on several customers who left after short stays, three of whom attested to rampant drug and prostitution activity at the Victory Inn.

         Victim 6 was apprehended after attempting to flee the Victory Inn. She admitted that she was a frequent resident of the Victory Inn and lived with Avery. She admitted to prostituting herself at the hotel to repay Avery, who sold her cocaine and heroin. Victim 6 stated that Avery and others have as many as 20 female sex workers at the Victory Inn, and that the pimps work for Bell. She also said that Bell delivers narcotics to the hotel daily and collects cash from the previous day's narcotics sales. Victim 6 also stated “a hotel manager named Janette, ” i.e., Tawfik, is present during drug and sex deals. Victim 6 further stated that Bell beat to death a female known as “Juicy” for failing to pay her drug debt.

         On December 26, 2016, Dearborn Police responded to a drug overdose call for a woman at the Best Value Inn hotel in Dearborn, Michigan, which is a few blocks from the Victory Inn. The female victim (“Victim 7”) died at the scene. Victim 7's boyfriend stated that she had ingested drugs that they had purchased that day at the Victory Inn.

         On December 29, 2016, another reliable confidential informant told police that multiple people, including Avery, were selling drugs and “pimping” women at the Victory Inn. This confidential informant said that Avery used several rooms for selling cocaine and heroin that he gets from Bell, as well as women. The confidential informant also stated they saw Avery pay the “hotel manager Janette, ” i.e., Tawfik, large sums of money from the drug sales and commercial sex. The informant further stated that Tawfik is in a romantic relationship with Bell.

         2. The January 2017 Search Warrant

         On January 12, 2017 at 6:00 a.m., HSI and local police executed a federal search warrant for 25 rooms at the Victory Inn. During the execution, agents rescued 14 lethargic female human-trafficking victims who were suffering from drug withdrawal in disheveled rooms. They arrested co-defendant Michael “Man” Randol after he tossed 35 grams of crack cocaine from a room window. Agents also recovered one loaded firearm, narcotics, narcotics paraphernalia, and dozens of cell phones. Most of the hotel rooms contained extensive evidence of recent drug use (e.g., used needles, used baggies, etc.). Agents also seized the Victory Inn's encrypted video surveillance data from the hotel's cameras, and records including thousands of handwritten room receipts.

         After rescuing the human-trafficking victims from the Victory Inn, agents were able to interview some of them, who allegedly confirmed that Tawfik - along with her “boyfriend” Bell and the other co-defendants - controlled, directed, and participated in the drug distribution and prostitution schemes at the Victory Inn. More than one victim stated that Tawfik abused them. According to some, Tawfik was so abusive that the victims referred to her as the “Dragon Lady.”

         3. Post-Search Investigation

         After the search warrant, agents conducted independent interviews with three other reliable sources with first-hand corroborated information on the Victory Inn conspiracy. The sources confirmed that Tawfik was in a romantic relationship with Bell, acted as Bell's right-hand person at the Victory Inn, acted in concert with the co-defendants, collected cash from the drugs and human trafficking in the form of room “rents, ” physically and emotionally abused and directed the female victims to prostitute themselves, and that minor victims were involved.

         4. The Evidence ...

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