It could be happening in your town but you would probably never even suspect it.

Authorities believe there are hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of forced laborers and sex slaves being held against their will in New Jersey.

"It’s tough to tell exactly how big of an issue it is because it’s a crime that happens right in plain sight,” said Brian Michael, special agent in charge of the Department of Homeland Security Investigations unit in New Jersey.

According to Michael, human trafficking can take many forms, including gangs that force women into sexual acts.

Prosecutors in New Jersey have prosecuted such gangs under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a federal law that allows law enforcement officials to get substantial criminal penalties for those involved with a criminal organization.

He said some sex trafficking victims may be teen runaways. And others may be voluntarily smuggled in from a foreign country but then unsuspectingly get trapped in a sex trafficking ring.

Michael said that many of these foreign-born trafficking victims may come from corrupt countries where they are leery of the police, so they feel like they have no recourse.

It's not just sex slaves. Some human trafficking victims are being used as forced domestic laborers "in a nice suburban neighborhood," Michael said, or as workers in farm or meat-processing plant.

In 2018, a Secaucus woman was charged with bringing a woman into the United States from Sri Lanka to do house work but never paying her for nearly a decade. 

In 2016, the owner and the manager of a Halal slaughterhouse in Perth Amboy were charged with paying immigrant workers slave wages for 100-hour weeks. 

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