Via KAHI Radio: Mike Papantonio is a senior partner at Levin Papantonio Rafferty, one of the country’s largest plaintiff’s law firms and Papantonio heads pack taking on big pharma, tobacco, weapons manufacturers, the auto industry and now human trafficking.
*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.
Mary Jane Popp: And that music, to be honest with you, is a perfect introduction to our topic. He is a senior partner of Levin Papantonio, one of the country’s largest plaintiffs law firms, and Mike Papantonio heads the park, or actually the pack, taking on big pharma, tobacco, weapons manufacturers, the auto industry, and now human trafficking. He bases his novels on his own cases, which have been extraordinary and he also is, you know, we’re talking about a business, $150 million industry and growing. And there’s a hint of a test connected to it. So comes Mike’s latest thriller, Inhuman Trafficking. Now Mike also hosts his nationally syndicated TV show called America’s Lawyer. Mike, nice to have you with us on the show.
Mike Papantonio: Thank you, Mary Jane. I appreciate it.
Mary Jane Popp: Absolutely. So what’s this test in Virginia that’s coming up?
Mike Papantonio: Well, you’ve got, what you’ve got the major center of this litigation right now is going to be Ohio actually, because.
Mary Jane Popp: Oh really?
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, it’s, the only way you can bring to bear any kind of really impact on something this big is you’ve got to find a jurisdiction where you can centralize all of the cases. For example, all the way back to tobacco. That’s what we did the opioid litigation, which was launched by our firm and you have to have that central place where all the, all the dispositive decisions are made about a particular case. So right now that’s the focus because they have such a huge problem with trafficking up there. You’d be surprised.
Mary Jane Popp: In Ohio, really?
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. You’d be so surprised at the jurisdictions that you, you would not think as a, is really a big issue, but that’s one of them.
Mary Jane Popp: I mean, you think mostly, you know, the bigger cities, New York, Los Angeles, you know, Chicago, those kinds of things, and here, Ohio.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah.
Mary Jane Popp: That’s amazing.
Mike Papantonio: What ends up happening if you were for example, to take the, the type of trafficking, trafficking that takes place by the trucking industry, it originates in LA and it makes its way, they’ll put, you know, 10 girls in back of a semi and each one has their own room. They leave from LA and they make them, make their trip across the United States. I-10 or one of the big corridors and all along the way, what they’re doing is they’re calling truck stops and they’re saying, we’re going to be there tomorrow. And the people listening understand kind of what that code is. They know what the truck stops are most likely to allow them to pull in and, you know, have these awful people come in and have sex with these girls that are typically underage and then leave. So you are right. The big cities is where it originates, Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, but ultimately everybody’s affected by it, Mary Jane, it’s not, there are really no bounds here.
Mary Jane Popp: Who are these sycophants who want to have sex in the back of a truck with a teenage girl?
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, well, it’s worse than that, Mary Jane. What’s, what’s worse about it is we don’t, there’s no acknowledgement that a lot of this comes from Wall Street. A lot of these businesses can’t, they can’t operate without money that’s loaned to them by finance groups out of Wall Street, out of Europe. Best example I can give you is something that was called Mindgeek. It was in Canada. It still is. It’s still flourishing. And the only reason they’re flourishing is because of the money that they get from Wall Street. But here’s what they do. They’re familiar with who all of the trafficked, who all the traffickers are. So they’ll make a telephone call to a trafficker and say, we really could use some video of underage girls being raped in a hotel room because we can distribute that and make a lot of money.
So they call, they call traffickers. It’s like, it’s like a Rolodex of traffickers. They know who to contact. But the worst thing about this is that this was a, this is a company that was under investigation by the Canadian parliament while they were under investigation, they ran out of money. So Wall Street, knowing that they’re under investigation, knowing what the conduct is, came in with with money and said, look, we’re going to bail.
Mary Jane Popp: You gotta be kidding?
Mike Papantonio: No, no. We’re going to bail you out to the tune of almost $700 million.
Mary Jane Popp: Holy smokes.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. So, so I think that’s the thing that strikes me about this. You know, when, we’ve done virtually every kind of major litigation, and we’re just now, we’re just now kind of trying to finalize the opioid litigation. But out of this, when I was first asked to get involved, it was, it was small group of lawyers that, you know, they had small shops and they said, Mike, you know, you need to jump in and do something. But I was almost, I was almost dis, disbelieving their stories until we actually did our own investigations and found out how bad it is. I hired a, hired a lawyer who had been trafficked when she was 14 years old and had escaped trafficking by the time she was 17, went on to get her MBA, went on to get her JD to practice law.
Mary Jane Popp: Good for her.
Mike Papantonio: And then I listened to the stories firsthand, it’s, it’s you listen to it. You go, that, that just can’t be, but unfortunately it is. It is a race to the bottom in so many ways.
Mary Jane Popp: It just, it sounds, you know, we’re in 2021 and this kind of thing is happening. I mean, where do they pick up these girls on the streets? Where, where are they coming from?
Mike Papantonio: A lot of different, the book for example, is it begins with one of the cases that we were involved with, where they were bringing in H2B workers from the Ukraine. And they would go over and recruit in the Ukraine. And they would say, how would you like to be in the service business, service industry? You can work in a hotel or a restaurant. And they would, of course, they, they need jobs. So they’d bring them to the United States, take everything away from them, their passport, their cards, anything. And then they would then say, well, okay, you can start off as a greeter in this restaurant to make it look legitimate. Within two weeks, it’s called, the process is called a step up, Mary Jane and the step up is they say to them, well, okay, you’re making pretty good money. How would you like to make more money by being a, a hostess at the strip club?
And then they pay them more money there. They don’t actually get the money. They hold onto the money and they, for their housing and their food. And then they say, after they start at the strip club, they say, well, you can make more money if you’ll just get on the pole and dance on the pole. And then the next step up is, oh, by the way, you’ll make more money if you’ll spend a little time with Tom over here. And that’s when they disappear, we don’t see them anymore because Tom is a trafficker. So it’s a, it’s, it’s this process that repeats itself every day, all over this country. And unfortunately, corporate media is unequipped to do it. They, you know, investigative journalism is all but dead in corporate media. A lot of the people involved, the hotels and the, the financiers, they do advertising for corporate media. So they’re a little slow to tell the stories and regulators, forget it. The Department of Justice they’ll do nothing because it’s not low hanging fruit. They would rather go after the most inane kind of problems rather than paying attention to serious problems. So
Mary Jane Popp: How has it grown? I, you know, we, there’s always been this kind of thing we know, but it’s a $150 million industry. Is that every year?
Mike Papantonio: Oh no, no. It’s a $42 billion industry, Mary Jane.
Mary Jane Popp: What?
Mike Papantonio: It’s 42 , $42 billion industry. Every year it generates $42 billion.
Mary Jane Popp: Holy, well, no wonder it’s, it’s popular with the people who are sick because it’s money. It’s all, it’s all the bottom line, money. They don’t care about people or lives.
Mike Papantonio: Absolutely the truth. And, you know, and so we can, you know, we can do nothing. We can say this doesn’t affect me until it affects your neighbor, until it affects your family. And we want to think that we’re above all of that. The girl that I just explained, that lawyer that I, that I hired is a brilliant, brilliant lawyer, knows more about trafficking than any, anybody that you’ll ever meet. She was girl next door. I mean, she was upper middle class. That’s, that story has repeated it, it repeats itself a thousand times a day, every day across this country. And.
Mary Jane Popp: So how did she get involved?
Mike Papantonio: Well, that was called, it’s called a Romeo routine. And what they do is they’ll send somebody to a school or someplace where she might be. With her it was, I think it was one of the social organizations that she was in and the Romeo’s older and, you know, entices them to, to come with them, to run away with them and everything’s going to be great and they’re going to marry him and life’s going to be good. And when you’re 14 or 15, you’re impressionable and they’re, they have it down to a really good science. I mean, just extraordinary science. It’s, because we’re dealing with, you know, you’re dealing with sociopaths. If you, if you look at DSM five or DSM four on psychological analysis, they’ll check every, every blank on just right down the list of what a sociopath is.
Mary Jane Popp: They have no feeling, right?
Mike Papantonio: No zero, no, zero feeling, zero feeling. Most of them have done it. A lot of them started out, they were trafficked. Not unusual for the Romeo who, who goes after the young girl that they were trafficked when they were younger. And so there’s all kinds of these scams that, and, and unfortunately people, I mean, you’ll never find this in corporate media trying to read, read about it. And I think the advantage to a book like this is, this is what we do every day. You know, the last book was called Law and Addiction. That was at the beginning of the opioid lawsuit that we handled. And most of the information that came out of there only came out because the lawsuit and we began feeding the Washington Post with all that information and they did a, just an extraordinary job uncovering the truth. But had we not started, had we not, you know, had we not taken that first step and say, we can take this on nothing would have happened. It’s just the old notion of, you know, evil prevails when good people choose to do nothing. Right.
Mary Jane Popp: It’s, it’s amazing. I mean, in 2020, the national center for missing and exploited children reported over 17,000 reports of possible child sex trafficking. But nobody did anything about it?
Mike Papantonio: Well, look here, here’s the problem. A lot of times the girl who’s trafficked ends up getting caught up in a system that the law enforcement doesn’t understand. It’s not that law enforcement wants to perpetuate it, it’s they don’t even understand what to do when they, when they pick up a young girl that appears to be working for pimp. It’s, they’re not working for pimp. They’re working for a larger organization most of the time. And they end up charging that girl and not doing their job to look behind the scenes and figure out what’s the root of the problem. And it’s not, again, I, you know, I choose to think that they don’t do that, you know, out of, on purpose, they do it out of ignorance. That law enforcement is not equipped to do this kind of thing and because we haven’t trained them well enough.
Mary Jane Popp: So what happens to be 17,000 girls a year, we’re talking almost a year?
Mike Papantonio: Yeah.
Mary Jane Popp: Do they just disappear after awhile? They do away with them? What do they do?
Mike Papantonio: Five years is what the typical trafficked girl will live and most of them don’t get out of it. Even if they get out, they’re, they end up, they’re so used to the lifestyle, the drug style, you know, the drug culture, the, all the, all the parts of it, the pornography culture, they end up staying there. But they live, the, the, a trafficked girl will not live more than five to seven years. Most of the time it’ll end up with suicide, homicide, drug overdose, sexual transmitted disease that ends up killing them. So it’s.
Mary Jane Popp: Where is, where are the parents of these girls?
Mike Papantonio: Well, I mean, the parents, it’s not, if you really analyze it most of the time, the parents aren’t really, they’re not tuned in to what’s going on with the child. This is with somebody is trafficked of upper middle-class, you know, type of setting the, it’s almost without question it’s the, the parent knows very little about what the daughter is doing, what the, what the child’s doing, and it’s, it takes work. I mean, you know, we’ve all raised a lot of people listening to this will have raised teenage girls, and there is a, or teenage boys. There’s just a time that they go through that is so awkward. And it’s so unsure and the people that do this, understand it very well. They are experts in how to get that disaffected child who, you know, who’s not happy in school. Doesn’t like her parents. Believes she’s victimized all the time.
That, that’s a classic kind of setting, but there’s a whole different part of it, Mary Jane. It’s not just the individuals, it’s this, for example, it’s such a broad expanse of how they go about doing this. Like the Ukraine, the Ukraine issue, where they send over, they send over people who are recruiters. It looks like it’s a job fair of sorts. They get them to the United States and, and then it’s over. Or they come in from right now, the immigration issues on the border are horrendous. The number of those people that are, number of those kids that are end up being trafficked is, and why the, why the media doesn’t talk about it, I have no idea. Maybe it’s political ideology that, you know, this is maybe a bad reflection on Biden and who knows. But it’s, it’s going on. We know it for a fact. Because.
Mary Jane Popp: But it’s been going on for a long time, right?
Mike Papantonio: Oh, of course it has.
Mary Jane Popp: I mean, it’s not just now.
Mike Papantonio: Of course, of course it is, of course it is. But the more you bring over that there’s no oversight, the worst the problem is. Lot of them end up getting across the border here and end up in all parts of Europe or Dubai, or, you know, the Middle East, and they’re sold like cattle.
Mary Jane Popp: Geez. But what can we do? I mean, they’re coming over the border by the thousands. How does one even keep track?
Mike Papantonio: Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? I mean, there is no, we. Look, we, we approach the immigration problem as we should with compassion, but we, we don’t look at it realistically. Realistically, what’s happening is too ugly even for the media to talk about and the media may have an agenda. They don’t, you know, they didn’t want to offend Trump or now they don’t want to offend Biden. And, I mean, it’s just part of, it’s part of it. They’re bringing them in from Argentina, Venezuela, all over, all over the South America. And then they, then they can’t find them. They can’t find literally can’t find them.
Mary Jane Popp: So who do we go after?
Mike Papantonio: Well, I mean, unfortunately it’s fairly ubiquitous. You’ve got cartels now that are, you know, this is big money. The cartels are bringing them in and, you know, they’re separating from the family, the cartels end up, they know where to sell people and they know the countries they can sell people and they know how to transport them. And you may recall there was a time when Atlanta airport, I don’t know, last time you’ve been through Atlanta, but the Atlanta airport was a, was a hub for all that you see. Now, they’re.
Mary Jane Popp: Really?
Mike Papantonio: Now they’re advertising, you’ll get on one of the trams and they’ll talk about, you know, be cautious of human trafficking. Well, the truth is Atlanta knew what was going on. They were, the Atlanta airport knew exactly what was happening. The hotels there knew exactly what was going on. They would put out, you know, to the real, just awful perverts. They would send out messages. You know, we’re going to have 12 girls at the Marriott or wherever it is, they’re going to be here for a week. And people would fly in from all over the world to that central hub in Atlanta, have sex with these people and then leave. And so the air, the airport industry knew exactly what was happening. Wasn’t just happening in Atlanta, it was happening in every major airport in the, in the country. So now in order to save face, in order to avoid being sued, they think it’s a protection to say, hey, you really need to be cautious of what’s going on around you. You need to pay attention. Is trafficking taking place?
Mary Jane Popp: Yeah. But the thing is, I’m, I’m a flyer, you know, and I’m in the Atlanta airport or any other airport for that matter. And this trafficking is going on. First of all, I probably wouldn’t even recognize it the way they do. It sounds like they’re very good at what they do.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah.
Mary Jane Popp: And the other is, even if I did understand it or recognize it, what do I do?
Mike Papantonio: Well now they’re responsive enough to where you can go to security and they’ll, they’ll at least pay lip service to try to figure out what’s going on. I don’t know how successful that is. If probably if we looked at what their success rate is in finding traffickers, a lot of this, Mary Jane, is show. Okay. The hotels now have their show. The show is this. You know, they’ve got a standards manual that, that directs them what, what to look for with trafficking. For example, these girls that I was telling you about that, that Mindgeek, or, you know, these, these folks we’re, we’re dealing with. They, you know, look, five girls check into a suite at a major hotel, and they’re there for two weeks and they’re bringing in cameras and they’re bringing in lights and these girls are walking all over the premises, barely clothed. I mean, that hotel knows what’s going on. So do we just say, well, it’s okay. It’s not their fault. It is their fault. They’ve become a mechanism to allow it to happen. And they don’t want to turn the business away because they, that’s money to them. And, that’s unfortunate.
Mary Jane Popp: But Mike, I, let’s be honest. Is there any way out of this? Is there anybody, there’s no one thing to go after. So.
Mike Papantonio: Well, there is, there is. And here’s the failure. This is unfortunately the failure of our system in the US. If a person is in a, a criminal, let’s say, he’s a criminal is the CEO of a major finance company. He doesn’t look like a criminal. He’s dressed up in a nice suit. He has a Rolex watch and has a Bentley outside and has his MBA from Harvard or Yale. We don’t look at that person as a criminal. We don’t understand that they absolutely know what’s going on in their organization. We do look at a kid who looks like a criminal who’s on the street corner with a hoodie on selling three ounces of marijuana. 10 times he ends up, you know, life in prison. So we, first of all, have to, we, we first all have to admit that our culture is upside down in how we regard criminal activity.
And who are they? Who are these people that do these kinds of thing, you know? So, you know, that’s a big jump. I mean, how do we, it’s across the board, Mary Jane. How, how did we allow CEOs of major drug companies to kill 150 people a day, which they’re still doing with opioids? How, how do we not look at that as manslaughter? Why, why is it that we don’t put them in prison? You see, because they worked for a corporation, well, a corporation in the United States now is regarded as a person. If a person does that type of thing, we put them in prison. So we have to perp walk some folks in order to get some, somebodies attention. And we’re not, we’re not willing to do that. I’ve not in my, in my lifetime, I don’t know, at least my adult life, I don’t know we’ve ever had an attorney general that’s had the courage to do that kind of thing, because they don’t want to rock the boat too much with the established corporate, you know, the whole corporate setup.
Mary Jane Popp: I, you know, I get the feeling it’s never going to go away.
Mike Papantonio: Well, it may not. It’s, you know, it’s been around for an awful long time. You know, people ask me sometimes they say, well, Mike, you know, at the end of the day, if you, if you, if you do succeed in, in, in some of these cases, it doesn’t solve the problem forever.
Mary Jane Popp: It’s too big.
Mike Papantonio: And well. Okay. But my answer to that, Mary Jane, is at least I can do what I can do while I’m here. Okay. It’s up to somebody else after that. It’s up to the young lawyers who come after me to perpetuate that and to say, yeah, this is important and I need to do something.
Mary Jane Popp: Well, Mike, I’m so glad that you’re at least taking it on. And, and the book Inhuman Trafficking, you really get into a lot of details, which is absolutely phenomenal, by the way.
Mike Papantonio: Thank you.
Mary Jane Popp: And I, I thank you for what you’re doing. We appreciate what you’re doing or, and trying to do and, and try and get the word out there so we all understand.
Mike Papantonio: Hmm. That’s the beginning, isn’t it?
Mary Jane Popp: It is.
Mike Papantonio: That we understand it.
Mary Jane Popp: It is. And for people not to sit by and let it happen, you know, you gotta do something about it. Even if it’s a little piece, if a whole bunch of people have a little piece of the action, maybe we can stop some of it anyway.
Mike Papantonio: Absolutely. It all, it all cul, culminates to success.
Mary Jane Popp: Now, do you have a website, Mike?
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. It’s Mike Papantonio. That’s the website. And that’ll take you to all kinds of different parts of, you know, this book can be found anywhere. I mean, you can find this in any bookstore, Amazon, or any of that.
Mary Jane Popp: Now that’s just what I was gonna ask you.
Mike Papantonio: Goodreads. I mean, any of the, any of the bookstores, you’ll be able to find this book.
Mary Jane Popp: Terrific. Well, all I can say, Mike, is thank you for what you’re doing. Please keep doing it and, you know, hopefully if we get the word out, maybe people will start paying attention.
Mike Papantonio: Let’s hope, Mary Jane.