Ukraine Woman Forced To Dance At Strip Club Testifies In D.C.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Lured from Ukraine with the promise of a student visa, the young woman believed she was headed to the U.S. to study and to Virginia Beach to work as a waitress -- not to Detroit, where she was forced to dance at a strip club.

Logo from Cheetah's in Detroit where "Katya" was forced to strip.

Using the alias "Katya" to protect herself, the 22-year-old woman spoke publicly for the first time today, describing to a congressional panel how she was forced to work at the Detroit club for months until she and another young woman escaped with the help of one of the patrons of the club.

"They forced me to work six days a week for 12 hours a day," she said of the men who made her work at Cheetah's in Detroit. "I could not refuse to go to work or I would be beaten." While she was forced to dance at the strip club, she said she was not made to be a prostitute.

"I was their slave," she said.

Still afraid of retribution, she has been unable to see her mother in Ukraine and won't reveal her real name, where she lives or where she works.

The testimony came before the House Judiciary Committee and its chairman, Detroit Democrat John Conyers. The committee is looking at reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which was intended to stiffen penalities for people engaging in human trafficking and make it easier for victims to get temporary visas.

Earlier this year, two Eastern European men were sentenced for their roles in the human trafficking ring that lured Katya and 11 other women to the U.S. and then forced them to work as exotic dancers by threats and coercion, taking away their passports, imposing huge debts on them, beating them and threatening to turn them into authorities.

In one case, according to federal prosecutors, a car belonging to a dancer who escaped was firebombed.

Michail Aronov, a Lithuanian national who lived in Livonia and the Chicago area, was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison in August and ordered to pay $1 million in restitution to his victims.

Another man, Aleksandr Maksimenko, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ukraine who also lived in Livonia, was sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution.

In all, nine people were sentenced. Documents released by federal prosecutors also said Maksimenko sexually abused two of the dancers. Both Maksimenko and Aronov pleaded guilty.

In her testimony, Katya described how, after landing in Washington in May 2004 -- where she had been told she'd be headed to Virginia to work as a waitress -- Aronov, Maksimenko and another man were waiting for her with a bus ticket to Detroit.

"Once I got off the bus in Detroit, everything changed. They took me to a hotel and took all of my identity documents from me. ... They told me that I owed them $12,000 for travel to the United States and $10,000 for the identification document, and that I only had a short time to pay them off," she said, speaking with a strong Ukranian accent.

She said her captors kept close tabs on her, even searching her apartment when she wasn't there. During her time there, she said she handed over as much as $4,000 a week to Aronov Maksimenko.

Her escape finally came, she said, after she and the young woman she lived with approached a patron of the club they thought they could trust. They put their belongings in trash bags -- figuring they could claim they were taking the garbage out if one of the men stopped them -- and left with the patron, who took them to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Once the men were arrested, she said, "I felt safe for the first time."

But she still has worries, saying Maksimenko has at least one relative still in Ukraine.

"If the trafficking law had allowed for my mother to come and live with me in the United States, it would have helped me and protected her," Katya said.

Conyers said the reauthorization bill would open immigration avenues to victims and their families to ensure they are protected.

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the ranking Republican on the committee, said those provisions may go too far, potentially allwing "people who knowing and willingly violate U.S. law to get immigration benefits for themselves and their families."

Source: Detroit Free Press

Comments

All lies the victims have done nothing but lie to federal authorities. They should be deported and found guilty of the crimes they have committed. They have been prostitues and drug addicts. No one forced them to do anything.
Pawlina said…
Well written article. How shameful for America.

The first comment posted here certainly underscores the need to protect unsuspecting souls from the brutes that are, unfortunately, all around us.
Anonymous said…
I feel sorry for you (customer who turned them over to ice) if one of them break your heart dont need to talk b...about all of as....
alyaksandr said…
Does anyone know how to get in touch with "Katya"? It seems that a very talented young Belarusian named Dzmitry Vasilyeu, is working on a movie about human trafficking in his country of Belarus and nearby Ukraine. The movie is called Dimanasus Prophecy. Katya may be interested in contacting Mr. Vasilyeu.

He's planning to take his movie all the way to Hollywood. He says he'll be doing casting this spring in Los Angeles.
Tangodip said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tangodip said…
Pretty much bullshit. When women get into trouble, they like to claim they are victims. This woman knew exactly what she was doing. No one forced her. She was suppose to go to Virginia Beach, but she followed the smell of money instead (and danced as a stripper in Detroit). Naturally she was caught violating her work visa, so she naturally had to blame someone else. The restaurant in Virginia Beach paid for her work visa and airplane ticket. Part of a student work program. When she did not show up to work, the authorities tracked her down. She was found working somewhere else and now has to pay for the work visa and airplane ticket. Now her story is that she was forced by brutes against her will. Bullshit. Truth is she was caught, and does not want to pay the money she owes.
pinkdiamond said…
i think all of you that has left negative remarks need to think about if it had happend to you are your loved one. how the hell can you say they lied were you there? i think your an anal a!*hole how dare you. you need to wake up and smell the coffe it happens to pepole every day . better hope it dont happen to you.
Beaulah said…
@ Tangodip you are so heartless and suspect you know more than what you are saying. It is only a friend or a sex trafficer can make such horrible and barbaric comments like yours. Will you be human and see things as they are.
Beaulah said…
@ Tangodip you are so heartless and suspect you know more than what you are saying. It is only a friend or a sex trafficer can make such horrible and barbaric comments like yours. Will you be human and see things as they are.