NBC Chicago – Alex Campbell was an expert in his field, according to authorities.
His “field” was the underground world of human trafficking, known familiarly as pimping and prostitution, and Campbell, according to investigators with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was a master pimp.
“On a scale of one to 10, he’d be a 12,” said DHS investigator Gary Hartwig. “I’ve been in law enforcement for 24 years, and he is actually the worst case of human trafficking we’ve identified in Chicago. Probably nationally.”
Prosecutors call Campbell a “predator” and say he targeted foreign-born women with questionable legal status. They say he’d use their precarious status, coupled with heavy doses of violence and intimidation, to control the women and force them into “a form of modern-day slavery.”
Last November a federal judge sentenced Campbell to life in prison. It’s believed to be the first time a “pimp” has been sentenced to life in prison for human trafficking in federal court in Chicago.
The federal case against Campbell was bolstered by four women who came forward to testify against him in court. In an effort to protect her identity, NBC Chicago will identify one woman only as “Sarah.”
‘It still hurts so bad’
In a sit-down interview late last month, Sarah said was completely controlled by Campbell to the point where she felt she might lose her life if she dared to disobey him.
“He told me many times that he would kill me,” she recalled.
Prosecutors believe Campbell was grooming Sarah to become a prostitute. It started, they say, with Campbell giving her a legitimate job at one of his Chicago-area massage parlors. They say he then became her friend and eventually her boyfriend. Attorneys say he then began to isolate her and beat her. Then he literally branded her.
“I still have those tattoos, and I can’t get rid of them,” Sarah said. “I’m trying to remove them for a long time — like two years — and they are still not coming off. It still hurts so bad.”
Investigators say Campbell branded most all of his victims. On one woman, they say he tattooed an manifesto so long it covered almost her entire back.
“For him, it let the world know that these women belonged to him,” said assistant United States Attorney Diane MacArthur, part of the team that prosecuted Campbell.
Steve Grimes, another assistant U.S. Attorney, said the women would have to explain the markings on their bodies for the rest of their lives anytime they met someone new.
“That was part of his plan,” said Grimes.
In court, prosecutors also alleged that Campbell would exact fines from the women he controlled. In the case of one victim, he levied a fine of $14,000 for her to get a green card. She got another $5,000 “fine” simply because she didn’t call him.
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