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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Club owner gets prison time in human-trafficking operation in metro Detroit (In Your Own Back-Yard)

Ukrainian nightclub owner Veniamin Gonikman was ordered Wednesday to serve three years in prison for his role in a human-trafficking operation that smuggled eastern European women into the U.S. and forced them to work in local strip clubs. He is the ninth and last defendant to be convicted in the case.

Gonikman said his son, convicted of running the smuggling operation known as Beauty Search and was sentenced to 14 years in prison, wired him money in Ukraine. He said he received more than $160,000 in wages the women earned.

Gonikman came to the attention of authorities in Detroit in 2005, when a woman escaped. Authorities said the women were forced to work 12 hours a day and give earnings -- more than $1 million -- to Gonikman.

One victim testified before Congress in 2007 about her treatment. "I could not refuse to go to work or I would be beaten," she said. "I was often yelled at for not making enough money or had a gun put to my face. ... I was their slave."

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