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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/6/12

Tampa Tribune Fails to Investigate Congressman Tied to Human Trafficking

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Two Congressmen illegally used campaign contributions as expenses for a group tied to human trafficking, prostitution and child sex tourism. These are Congressmen Jimmy Duncan of Tennessee and Gus Bilirakis of Florida. They are both (R) and are running for re-election. Both listed Jester expenses on FEC forms.

I have investigated this group, the Royal Order of Jesters, for over four years. They are a secret sub-group of the Shriners, best known for their network of pediatric hospitals, with their own set of scandals.

I published "Jesters in Congress" on September 27 then, to their credit, Andy Alcock of WCTV Tallahassee and Lee Logan of the Tampa Bay Times covered Congressman Bilirakis' misuse of campaign contributions for Jester expenses. Bilirakis' opponent, John Russell, exposed the Jester connection at a forum on October 15. 

The Jesters are a nonprofit fraternity that operates a nationwide network of human trafficking.

Not my words.

This is how the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office described the Jesters in court documents related to the prosecution and sentencing of a handful of Jesters for getting prostitutes to Jester parties from Canada to Florida. These were a former NY state supreme, his law clerk, a former police captain and a deputy sheriff

Tallahassee TV station WCTV and the Tampa Bay Times then dug into the story. WCTV's Andy Alcock followed up by reporting that John Russell, Bilirakis' opponent, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.   Lee Logan of the Tampa Bay Times, reported that the Jesters membership and rituals are secret. Tax returns report that Jesters' headquarters deducts the cost of "rituals" as "Program Service Revenues."

In contrast, Tampa Tribune columnist Tom Jackson described the Jesters as a way for Shriners to embrace their inner party animal after working so hard supporting their hospitals. Jackson dismissed the Congressman's "inactive" Jester membership.

Worst of all, the Tampa Tribune has failed in their watchdog role by ignoring the serious issues of human trafficking, prostitution and child sex tourism. The Tampa Tribune and Tom Jackson wrongly dismissed FEC violations and immaturely mocked John Russell, their candidate's opponent. This is the worst of "good old boy" journalism and an epic fail by the Tampa Tribune to expose these crimes against girls and women, right in their own back yard.

I am a one-woman newsroom. I am also Alaska Native and a Navy vet. My life was forever changed after reading the depositions of five Brazilian Indian girls who told their Federal Police about being lured into prostitution while underage by a former fishing tour operator for his North American clients, including 19 Jesters. Today, Richard Schair of Gainesville, Georgia is being prosecuted in Brazil and is under criminal investigation by a grand jury in Miami for child sex tourism. Equality Now is involved with a related case of four Brazilian women suing Schair in Gainesville federal court for violating the Trafficking Victim's Protection Act. I suspect the Miami grand jury is stalled because of Schair's client list. Federal investigators went to Brazil and have access to and/or confirmed the evidence on which Brazil based it's ongoing prosecution. Could Congressman Bilirakis have access to sensitive information or exert influence to protect his "brothers" because he sits on both the Homeland Security and Foreign Affair's committees?

Then there are Bilirakis' conflicting oaths. He's sworn to secrecy as both a Shriner and Jester. There is a clear conflict between Shriner bylaws that state they do not include the laws of the land and his Congressional oath to uphold the constitution. His continued silence supports his oaths to his "brothers" instead of those to our constitution.

My ultimate goal is to raise awareness of Congressman Bilirakis Jester membership, then put pressure on the grand jury in Miami to indict Schair or not. Then the case filed by the Brazilian women can proceed. I may not ever meet these women but will continue to fight and write on their behalf.

Let's hope that other media don't dismiss and excuse those who traffick and prey on women and girls. 

My last three articles about this can be read here.


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Investigative reporter, author and researcher into that which would rather remain hidden. U.S. Navy Electronics Tech vet, original shareholder of Ahtna, Inc, an Alaska Native corporation, Board of directors, Western Washington Pro Chapter of the (more...)
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