Author and trial lawyer Mike Papantonio joins On Mic with Jordan Rich to discuss his latest legal thriller, Inhuman Trafficking, and the failures of the media and our law enforcement to crack down on the criminals within the ongoing trafficking industry.
*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.
Jordan Rich: Well, Mike, welcome to the podcast. Let me ask you first, how you got into the writing game. A lot of lawyers have done it successfully and you’re one of them joining a, a list of very successful guys. What got you into the novel writing business?
Mike Papantonio: Well, the cases that I’ve handled over the years, Jordan, just kind of lend themselves to that. I don’t handle, I don’t handle auto cases or workers’ comp or anything like that. The cases I handle are, for example, we launched the tobacco litigation from this law firm. We’ve launched probably 50 of the largest pharmaceutical cases in the country, 12 of the biggest environmental cases. So these things that I do all kind of lend themselves to being able to write these books because the books are all based on those cases. Even though you take a, take a story and you fictionalize it, it’s still the underlying story is completely true. So it was a fairly easy thing to do. Plus add to that I was a journalism major at University of Florida. So it was kind of a perfect fit to tell you the truth.
Jordan Rich: Yeah. You also have a radio show it says here, Ring of Fire. Tell me about that.
Mike Papantonio: Well, yeah, Bobby Kennedy and I years ago started a program called Ring of Fire, which was, well, it was around, you know, the program was around 20, 25, 26 years. I have a show now called America’s Lawyer. That is, it’s a TV show. It’s on RT America. But yeah, Ring of Fire was around for a very long time. It was started during a time that it was an organization called Air America that started up in New York and they invited us to come in and we put the show together there. But I’ve done media, MSNBC and, you know, Fox news as a liberal commentator for a very long time.
Jordan Rich: Well, let’s talk about the new book called Inhuman Trafficking. And you mentioned some of the major cases that you’ve had and we’ll get into the book in more detail. But have you had experience in this realm as well?
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, we filed the first what called an MDL case and what that is Jordan, in order to bring closure and be able to land a project like this, you have to find one jurisdiction where all of the discovery takes place and kind of the dispositive judge decisions take place. So we filed one of those cases up in Ohio, and that was a couple of years ago. And it was based on the, actually is based on the cases that are in this book. So that, that’s where you start. You, you, you begin by saying, well, you know, in order to do something, you got to take the first move and that is to file the lawsuit. You know, typically media does nothing, you know, I’m fairly critical of corporate media and they typically do nothing until there’s some reason, at least for them to pay attention to it. And so.
Jordan Rich: Right, right.
Mike Papantonio: We, we filed, for example, the opioid case, that was our case that we filed up in Ohio five years ago. And, and until we filed that case, the entire program really wasn’t out there till the Washington Post picked up the story from us. And so it’s, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s just how things work. You have to, to make, to get anything done you have to file the lawsuit.
Jordan Rich: Let’s talk about the hero of this book and others. And it’s nice to write a hero who has a similar last name in a certain respect, Nick Deke, Deketomis is the lawyer, the heroic lawyer here. And I would be suggesting offhand that it sounds like you, but it maybe there’s somebody else mixed in there along with you.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah.
Jordan Rich: I don’t know.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Anytime you create a character, the best thing to do Jordan is to create a composite of take the worst and the best and mix them together. There’s no character, anytime you try to make a character look too bulletproof it’s, it never ends well. So, you know, Nick Deketomis is a complicated character at best, but he’s the, he, he’s the senior partner of one of the biggest law firms in the country. And so, yeah, I, I, you know, you borrow some of yourself, but you also borrow from other people and you try to say, what is this, what is, what is this quality that I think it projects well in a book.
Jordan Rich: Well, he’s a married guy, a family man. No question about that. A little on the headstrong side, but I guess you have to be in, in certain cases when you’re dealing with high profile cases, like the one we’re going to talk about.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. I think you’ll find most, there’s only about in the entire nation there’s only about 20 law firms that do what we do. And I think if you analyzed, probably did a, a MMPI on any of them, a personality profile, you’d find they all have those same qualities. That is the, they’re all a little headstrong. It’s hard to tell them no when they think that they, when they’re looking for a, yes, I guess is the best way to put it.
Jordan Rich: Now, Mike, in the book we have just what the title suggests human trafficking. The title is Inhuman Trafficking, a legal thriller. But we have this situation with a, a large hotel chain welcome mat hospitality. And they have truck stops and lodging throughout the country and it’s the perfect sort of backdrop for human trafficking.
Mike Papantonio: Real case, a real case, by the way.
Jordan Rich: Yeah.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. The way that we, we’re handling part of that case, that case is where in LA, typically it all, it all centers around LA for some peculiar reason. But they’ll, they’ll take a truck, an 18 wheeler truck or several 18 wheeler trucks and put girls in back of them. And they’ll, they’ll divide, sub-divide the trailer into two small bedrooms, and then they’ll make their, make their trip across the United States from the West coast to the East coast and all along the way, they’re talking to truckers and they’re talking to truck stops and we’re going to be at a particular truck stop on three o’clock on a Friday. You might want to stop by. That’s, they, they don’t say it like that. There’s different ways that they project it. But then people show up at the truck stop and they have sex with underage girls, and then they go their way. Yeah, so it’s, it’s very organized. It’s not, it’s not what you would think.
People think of human trafficking and they think of some character who, you know, kidnaps one or two girls and trafficks them. It’s much, much more organized. The other part of that story, for example, in the, in Inhuman Trafficking is I tell the story about the organization in, in Canada. Well, this is one part of it. That what, what, what happens is there, there’s an organization in Canada and they’re, they, they probably are responsible for most of the, most of the pornography that takes place all around the world. But they’re financed by Wall Street, you see, Wall Street drives them and the way that they’re involved in trafficking is they’ll say, we need a film. For example, we need a film of a 14 or 15 year old girl in distress who’s being raped in a hotel room. They call their friendly trafficker. They get that done. They get that film and it becomes part of the pornography process all over the world. The only problem is the thing that people miss is a lot of that is financed by Wall Street. They can’t stay in business without equity interest from Wall Street.
Jordan Rich: Now, the book covers two populations of victims. In one case, it’s a girl named Lily, who’s the grand, I’m sorry, the Goddaughter of our hero, which makes it very personal. But then there are also those from other parts of the world, including Russia. So what can you tell us about the, the influx in the, the foreign girls who were taken here and.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. There’s something called an H2B process in the United States, and that’s where you bring in workers that, that have a green card, and they have a permission to work in America. So the employer goes to a place like Ukraine, and matter of fact, this happened, this happens all the time, but it just the case that we’re talked about in that book happened about an hour drive away from here, where they brought in Ukrainian girls and they, they interviewed them and they said, how would you like to be in the hotel service industry? So they bring them over to the United States and they think that they’re going to be worked behind a desk, or maybe work as a greeter. And they might start them there for a week or two. And then they move them to a, a strip club. And they say, how would you like to work as a greeter in a strip club? And then you can make more money if you’ll work on the pole, it’s called the step up process. And then once they’re on the pole, they say, we’d like you to meet Bob here in the audience. He wants to, he wants to chat with you. And that’s the last we see of them because they’re trafficked. But that’s a, that’s an age old process has been going on in the United States for a long time. They literally show up in Europe and they look like there’s some kind of job fair and.
Jordan Rich: Right. And they disappear because there’s really no record of them. Is that it?
Mike Papantonio: That’s correct.
Jordan Rich: Records are expunged.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, well, they disappear because we don’t have a Department of Justice that, we have a completely dysfunctional Department of Justice, a completely dysfunctional Homeland Security that should be keeping up with that kind of stuff. But they don’t. And they just become another statistic.
Jordan Rich: Well, the Jeffrey Epstein case pointed out that, you know, people with lots and lots of money and power often abuse that opportunity. And they did so in a most horrific way, some, some pretty big names might be connected. So we’re not talking about just truckers here. We’re talking about people with money and power and influence.
Mike Papantonio: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, they make the world go around in this area. Nothing happens without the person that’s willing to stop at the truck stop, or the person that’s willing to, you know, buy a, an hour with a 14 year old girl. And a lot of times it is the Epstein ilk that is at the heart of it. But we look the other way, don’t we, because, you know, Jeff, Jeff Epstein was a celebrity. He had money. He had influence. He had affluence. He was politically connected. And so we don’t treat them like we treat any other criminal. Epstein got away with what he was doing for, for 15 years. And the people who were around Epstein also got away with it and to this day have gotten away with it. The only person that’s even been looked at is, is Maxwell and she’s really a minor player when it comes down to it. But yeah, we, we have a double standard, Jordan. It’s a, it’s an ugly standard. It is they don’t look like criminals. So we don’t treat them like criminals. If they wore hoodies, maybe we’d be willing to throw them in prison.
Jordan Rich: We’re, we’re talking here about the new novel, a legal thriller called Inhuman Trafficking. It really is a thriller. There’s a lot of violence and there are victims of violence and I’m, I’m guessing I don’t think it takes a, a great intellect to figure out that these girls and many of them are girls underage are also killed and they disappear and who knows? I mean, they’re tortured, they’re this inhuman treatment of these people. It’s not just sex.
Mike Papantonio: No, no, absolutely. And, you know, the, the problem is that there’s so little understanding about it. I mean, the, for example, I hired a lawyer who’s an incredibly talented lawyer who’s been with me, going on two years now. She was trafficked when she was 14 and she was California and got away when she was 16 I think, 16 or 17. Went on to get her MBA at UCLA and then got her law degree at UCLA. Well, she came from a, and then is now working with us, but she came from a upper middle class. I mean, she was upper middle class. And we’ve, we think, well, you know, this is just something that happens to kind of the, have nots, the runaways, the kids that are problem kids. They, you know, they, they’ve been problems their entire lives. It’s, nothing is farther from the truth.
There is a lot of that, you know, you have the foster care system that feeds the system that feeds the trafficking process. You have the immigration system right now that is a completely utter disaster that media won’t look at because they don’t like the politics of it. So they won’t, they won’t call it what it is. That there’s trafficking at record numbers right now, as we speak coming across the border, the cartels are involved in a big way. So, I mean, there’s, there’s things that seem off limits Jordan with they, they seem off limits for corporate media and they’re simply not willing to talk about it.
Jordan Rich: I’m, I’m with you. And I think a novel like this gets people thinking, and if you dig a little deeper beyond just the exciting page turn that it is, you realize there’s a lot of, a lot of meat here. There’s a character in the book, and I’m sure this is based on the real deal, a female sort of, I call her a capo, if you know what that means. She’s, she’s sort of the, the lion tamer of the local troop. And I would imagine that’s commonplace to have.
Mike Papantonio: Oh yeah.
Jordan Rich: A, a woman in charge of the team, the local team. So to speak.
Mike Papantonio: Yes. Victoria. Yeah. So, so this character is actually is, is driven by a character that actually existed in, in Destin, Florida. And she was Ukrainian herself. Had come over and, you know, she was just the person to go to, to make all this happen, which is very common. A lot of folks that come in, they, they, they brought, they’re brought in they’re trafficked when they’re brought in and then they end up being part of the process, the management, the acquisition, the, the people who, who are the movers and shakers that actually perpetuate the trafficking. You see it a lot from Mexico. You see it a lot from the Ukraine. All parts of Russia where they’ve made it through, they’ve lived through it, actually, this girl that I was talking to you about that works for us, they were grooming her for that purpose for her to someday take over the management of girls. So yeah, that’s not, that’s a very common kind of problem.
Jordan Rich: Mike, I’m a, an old Perry Mason guy. So, Paul Drake is, you know, the detective, everybody knows that name if you’re of a certain age. But in the book and I imagine you can comment on this in terms of the firm itself, in the book, you have a couple of stalwart guys who are tough, former military, ones former military. I love that. I love that character. But law firms like yours, you must have on your team, people who can, uh.
Mike Papantonio: Oh yes, absolutely.
Jordan Rich: Get, get their fingernails a little dirty if they have to.
Mike Papantonio: Oh, absolutely. You’ve got a character Carol Morris in there that has been with this firm for 25 years. Just remarkable, remarkable investigator. The PJ that is in that book, there’s a, people aren’t familiar with it. They know seal. They, they know the seal team, they know delta force, but they’ve, they’ve, they don’t know what a pararescueman is. They’re, these folks are trained right down the road from where we are, one of the, one of the air force bases here. And they are just the baddest of the bad. Matter of fact, they may come through the training at a seal team and they, they determined that that particular person works best by themselves. They work independently by themselves and they’re called pararescuemen or PJ’s. So in the book that character comes to work for the law firm. We, we, we, we don’t have anybody that, that, that rivals that, but we’ve got some pretty tough cats around here.
Jordan Rich: Well, I’d want that guy on my team.
Mike Papantonio: Yes, yes.
Jordan Rich: Let’s put it that way. I want him working for me, not against me.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah.
Jordan Rich: You mentioned, I’ve got a few minutes left here with you, but you mentioned Mike, the Justice Department and the mess that, that the federal government finds itself in so many areas, immigration and, and justice. Is, is the work of law firms like yours and our hero in the book Deke, is that the best way to uncover and unearth some of these maggots?
Mike Papantonio: Yeah.
Jordan Rich: And do away with them through the courts?
Mike Papantonio: Let me answer that question this way, with opioids. We filed the first national opioid case that ever emerged and out of there, after we filed the lawsuit, all of a sudden it’s on everybody’s radar. We started seeing the Wall Street, Wall Street Journal cary it. Washington Post did an extraordinary job with the information that we gave them out of the lawsuit. But at last it was on the radar screen and people understood that 150 people were dying a day. The truth is the Justice Department that we have is not capable of doing that. The Justice Department we have is typically going to handle a case with what I call low hanging fruit. If it’s easy to get to, they’re going to, they’re going to take that case. They won’t take a complicated case like this, or the same way with opioids. They wouldn’t touch opiods because it was too complicated, but now we’re trying to solve the opioid case. So most of the time resolution begins with cases just like what we’re talking about with law firms that actually say, well, you know, if government won’t do it, regulators won’t do it, media won’t pay any attention to us. Washington won’t pay any attention. Let’s go do it ourselves.
Jordan Rich: There are responses from big corporate ponchos. We know nothing about this. This is not our, in our charter, and I know in the, in the book, there’s the fictional welcome mat hospitality firm. But, there, there are so many levels of power that you have to sort of get through. It and for those who don’t know, I mean the amount of time and effort and money it takes to, to work a case like the opioid case or the tobacco case, it, it can be years and, and literally dozens and dozens of staff, right? I mean, it’s.
Mike Papantonio: Oh yeah. I mean.
Jordan Rich: Not just something you just roll out.
Mike Papantonio: Well, I think the opioid case right now, collectively the law firms that are handling that there’s only a handful of us. I think we’re probably $200 million into that case right now, and five years down the road. So, but you, the good news is there are people that are willing to do that, and they get criticized of being, you know, ambulance chasers, I guess, for taking on what nobody else will take on. You know, I, I did corporate media for a long time, and it was, I was always amazed at their unwillingness to tell stories that really mattered. It was, it was really easier to talk about Kim Kardashian and what she wore to the latest celebrity party, you know.
Jordan Rich: Yeah. I think you’re right. I think there’s a, there’s a, I don’t want to call it. Well, I will call it laziness on the part of some in the corporate media. A couple of other quick things. Your co-writer Alan Russell is a man of, of letters. Let’s put it that way.
Mike Papantonio: Very talented.
Jordan Rich: Very accomplished.
Mike Papantonio: Very talented.
Jordan Rich: Talk a little bit about Alan Russell, because he’s worth knowing.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Alan, Alan’s been a friend a long time. He, he began really editing some of my earlier books with me. My relationship, of course, he’s, he’s a New York Times bestseller I think several times. But I think his, his vision of what a fiction should look like and what mine is, is very similar. You know, it’s not everybody gets killed. There’s not a bang shoot up scene every other fourth page. It’s just a story and he’s a great storyteller. I needed his help on this one because he was very familiar with the topic and just did a wonderful job with it. He, he, he, he can, he he’s, he, he’s able to say, Pap, listen, I love this, I love this paragraph, but it should go in chapter four, not chapter two.
Jordan Rich: Mhm. That’s what you need.
Mike Papantonio: So that’s what a good writer, that’s what a good writer does. And so he’s just brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
Jordan Rich: And one more thing, Mike, you’ve been compared, and this is very favorably, of course, to Grisham and, and a gentlemen who is a dear friend of mine, Joseph Fender. You guys ever, you guys ever have coffee, or?
Mike Papantonio: Never have, never have. I, it’s so odd. I’m a, I just respect both of them so much and, you know, it’s just, you get isolated in your world, Jordan. You go about your life and you say, I wonder what they’re up to today. And then they’ll turn out some new book and you go, wow, why didn’t I think of that? You know, and they’re really, really talented man, really talented.
Jordan Rich: I’ve interviewed Joe many times and I met John Grisham and he was, he said that same thing he said at, at a, at a, I guess it was a talk on a, at a book festival. He said, you know what really me off when somebody like Mike Papantonio comes up with the idea before me. In a, in a, in a fun way. I mean, it’s, it’s so true. Yeah.
Mike Papantonio: He just, he lands, he just lands his stories so well, doesn’t he Jordan? I mean, he just lands a story, you know, being a lawyer who does, I practice every day, I watch what he does and I go, wow. You know, he got that right. He got it right. So.
Jordan Rich: But, but the drama, as we see is, is played out in the courts every single day with lawyers and prosecutors and, and big corporate entities, it is the, the human drama that I think you’re captivating us with. Congratulations on this. Are you working on the next one?
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, it’s called Law and Terror. It’s about the terrorists money being washed by some of the big banks all over the world where they wash money and it ends up killing US contractors, US soldiers, soldiers from all over the world, because a bank like HSBC or some of the big banks, they know exactly what they’re doing. They’ll, you know, they’ve made a hundred billion dollars washing money and they know exactly where that money is going, how it’s being used and ends up killing a lot of innocent people. So that’s my next book. Yeah.
Jordan Rich: You have a terrific venue here. The, the opportunity in this genre to tell stories and get people talking. It’s called Inhuman Trafficking, a legal thriller by Mike Papantonio and Alan Russell. We’ve been talking with Mike and I wish you the best and stay safe. It’s a, it’s a scary world out there.
Mike Papantonio: It is, Jordan. It is. Thank you for the opportunity. Appreciate it.
Jordan Rich: Thank you, Mike.