Two Russian girls paid $3000 to come to America for work. They were told to report to a shady New York nightclub to become 'hostesses'. A concerned friend posted about it on Metafilter. They were apparently saved.
My friend and former student K arrived in DC yesterday, along with a friend. She came over on some kind of travel exchange program put together by a Russian travel agency called 'Aloha'. They paid about 3K for this program.
The program promised a job offer in advance, but didn't deliver. They said they would send one via email, but failed there, too.
Her contact in the USA barely speaks English, doesn't answer her calls but does answer mine. He has asked her and her friend to meet in NYC tonight around midnight, with promises of hostess work in a lounge. Yes, I know how horrific that sounds- that's why I am working all possible angles here.
Daniel was not in DC — in fact he was driving all night, and posting from a phone — so decided to ask the internet for advice on what he could do from afar. He identified the nightclub as Lux Lounge in Coney Island. Other posters were especially alarmed to find the flyer for the place, above. The internet was not going to stand around while the two girls went to New York to potentially be sold into sex slavery. The thread filled up with numbers for the Russian consulate. Who could not help.
Several people offered to escort the girls. Others provided the number of the Human Trafficking Hotline, a service run by the anti-slavery charity the Polaris Project. Another group picked Lux Lounge apart, and discovered that the listed address had been occupied by many shady-sounding businesses over the last few years, that it did not check out in Google street view and that the website was empty. One surprised person discovered that his or her grandmother had lived at the address in the 1920s. But everyone ignored that.
Posters provided numbers for the NYPD vice squad. Some offered to try and find the girls other jobs, to stop them going to New York. And then someone who said they were from the US Department of State came online to say they were on the case. Daniel confirmed that five or six people from State and two human trafficking groups were now helping him. But the girls, who seemed determined to follow through on the contact, still got on a bus to New York.
Finally, several MetaFilter members decided to meet them off the bus to divert them. Daniel finally posted this:
A member of this site convinced them to meet her instead of the contact. I think she is cool)
They will meet in a few minutes.
The girls, if any of this is true, did not meet their shady contact, and are now safe and well. We called Daniel, who posted his number on the thread, to confirm the story and get more details. We'll update if he gets back to us.