Three years ago, interim U.S. Attorney Bradley Schlozman didn’t know that human trafficking existed in the United States. Now he is one of the country’s most ambitious federal prosecutors for labor and sex trafficking crimes.
“It’s a form of modern-day slavery,” Schlozman says. “The idea that it happens in the 21st century is outrageous.”
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appointed Schlozman, 35, to U.S. Attorney of the Western District of Missouri on March 25, 2006. Just two months later, Schlozman launched a Human Trafficking Task Force. “We’re taking truly sadistic people off the street,” he says.
Many cases involve undocumented immigrants lured to the United States and then forced into the sex trade or exploited labor. “Women are among the most vulnerable, especially those who don’t speak English with no ties to the community,” he says. “And sometimes the coercion isn’t physical, but psychological. Domestic servants are locked in a room for 20 hours a day with no access to communication.”
According to a 2006 U.S. Justice Department report, approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders annually. Up to 17,500 victims are trafficked into the United States.
Schlozman began his fight against human trafficking in 2003, when he served as the deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department. He traveled throughout the world to talk with government officials about the transnational crime.
“Kamathipura, the brothel district in Bombay, is the dirtiest, most disgusting area you’ve ever seen,” Schlozman says. “What’s going to happen to these poor girls?” He also visited Thailand, Estonia, Switzerland, Japan, the Philippines, Tanzania, China and Taiwan.
“We didn’t lecture to the government officials,” he says. “The U.S. has no monopolies on great ideas. It was dialogue about what has worked and about the mistakes we’ve made.”
Since he began working for the U.S. Justice Department, Schlozman has overseen about 200 human trafficking cases — including incidents in the heart of the Midwest.
“We have discovered significant human trafficking activity in the Western district of Missouri and Kansas City,” he says. “Recently we indicted one case involving twin 13-year-old girls and a 15-year-old girl being trafficked — basically pimped out on the street in return for shelter.”
In addition to human trafficking, Schlozman oversees federal cases related to terrorism, corporate fraud, firearms, drugs, child exploitation and computer crimes. Under the Bush administration, “terrorism is the No. 1 priority,” he says. “But then again, what’s not a priority?”
As one of the nation’s 93 U.S. Attorneys, Schlozman works closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. He oversees a staff of 125, including 65 attorneys, divided between his Kansas City, Springfield and Jefferson City offices.
“Our offices don’t have the partisan shrill environment that encircles Washington,” he says. “We don’t even talk about politics.”
Before he was named U.S. Attorney, Schlozman was the principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department, where he supervised more than 700 employees, including 356 attorneys. He also served as counsel to the deputy attorney general since he began serving the Bush administration in 2001.
Schlozman will serve as interim U.S. Attorney until President Bush appoints a permanent replacement. He could potentially serve until the Bush administration leaves office. “I’m grateful for all of the opportunities the president has given me,” he says.
Schlozman first moved to Washington in 1999, where he joined the Supreme Court and appellate litigation practice at Howrey, Simon, Arnold & White.
“As a private-practice attorney, I shifted money from one corporation to another,” he says. “Now I feel involved in a more noble profession.”