Watch CBS News

Exclusive: NYC's Hidden World Of Human Trafficking

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Many foreigners dream of coming to New York City and living a life of freedom.

But for the thousands of victims of human trafficking who are held here against their will, life is a living hell instead.

CBS 2's Rob Morrison has the exclusive story of Eliza's abuse and escape.

"Eliza" is 24, in hiding and scared for her life.

"I'm just scared of going out every single day," she told Morrison.

Several weeks ago she says she escaped from the man who enslaved her for years, forcing her to work at an underground sex club in lower Manhattan. That man, her husband, threatened her with death if she ever left.

"He said, 'nobody knows that if you gonna die. Nobody knows if you die because you don't have any people,'" Eliza said.

She said they met in the Philippines when she was just 19 and he charmed her into thinking he was an American businessman who had fallen madly in love with her. She thought it was a dream come true when he proposed marriage.

"Yes, he's good for pretending to be good guy," Eliza said.

Human trafficking
Human trafficking (Graphic: AP)

But, she said, as soon as he got her out of her country, the physical abuse started and she quickly learned his business was sex and online pornography.

"After beating on me he said this is what's gonna happen to you if you argue with me and you can't do anything. I have your papers and passport. You can't go anywhere," she said.

Her attorney said it was all part of his calculated plan to dupe her and then control her.

"It was methodical what he did in anticipation of bringing her into this country on a visa to get married. He had already posted information on a website that she would be available to others," Michael Wildes said.

Eliza said this drama unfolded in lower Manhattan and it was pure fear that kept her living and working there against her will. She said her husband threatened to hurt her family back in the Philippines if she left and, based on the abuse she suffered, she had no reason to doubt him.

Morrison: "He put electrodes on private areas of your body?"

Eliza: "Yes, that's the worst thing that happened to me."

Morrison: "And he tortured you until you went unconscious?"

Eliza: "Yes and I just wake up and don't know what's happening."

Sonia Ossorio, president of the local National Organization for Women said human sex trafficking is big business here in New York City and this story is one of many.

"This is such a classic case. It's absolutely amazing the degree that this happens on a regular basis and how open and blatant it is in our society and that we just don't see it," Ossorio said.

Eliza said she eventually learned she was just one of many of her husband's victims.

"His first girlfriend, his second girlfriend, all of his girlfriends, he done all of this things to them," she said.

Eliza was lucky. With a friend's help and protection she summoned the courage to escape, hired an attorney and obtained a restraining order. But most others aren't so fortunate.

"They have very, very few options to reach out to anybody or a sense there is anybody to reach out to," Ossorio said.

Eliza's attorney said she should be able to retain her green card through a battered spouse application. But she wants more.

"Yes, I want justice," she said.

Authorities are investigating the allegations against Eliza's husband, but no warrants have been issued and sources indicate he may have left the country.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.