Alumna Recognized for Her Work to Combat Human Trafficking
Posted: December 20, 2010 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: December 17, 2010 at 12:10 pm
Some little girls dream of being a teacher or a nurse. Some fantasize about becoming president or an astronaut. Jamie (Girolamo) Konstas, BS Integrative Studies ’00, knew she wanted to work for the FBI.
Ten years after graduating from Mason’s New Century College (NCC), Konstas is living her dream. She serves as a critical information link between law enforcement agencies across the country and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), where she is detailed by the FBI’s Crimes Against Children Unit.
Early in her career as an intelligence analyst, Konstas recognized that child traffickers seemed to have a network, calling each other from other cities to find out where they could work or areas to avoid.
At the time, Konstas says, law enforcement didn’t have the same level of organization. Her work through the Innocence Lost National Initiative, a partnership among the FBI, NCMEC, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, has helped by forming 38 task forces and working groups. She works closely with these groups to share information on children.
“Part of my responsibility is to get all the reports on missing kids,” says Konstas. “We get that information to law enforcement so they know who they need to be looking for.”
Technology has been critical to information sharing. What used to be done via phone and e-mail between officers is now online, according to Konstas, and information can be shared directly between agencies, as opposed to being filtered through an FBI field office.
“By giving them direct access to each other, they are able to build stronger cases, which have resulted in stronger prosecutions and sentences,” she says.
The network Konstas helped establish has resulted in the conviction of 600 traffickers and the rescue of 1,135 child victims. As a result of her efforts, she was honored in October 2009 with the U.S. Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Information Technology. In September of this year, she was awarded a Service to America Medal from the Partnership for Public Service.
Two significant operations have led to these honors. The first came in 2005 when the FBI and local law enforcement partnered to dismantle a nationwide trafficking network that was working out of a truck stop in Harrisburg, Penn. Known as the Precious Cargo case, 21 people were eventually indicted. In the end, Konstas’s work with task force members from the Pennsylvania State Police and the Internal Revenue Service identified 150 victims, 45 of them who started prostituting as children. Some were as young as 12.
“We were able to piece the case together and show that these [traffickers] all worked collaboratively, set pricing, and sold and traded victims within their network,” she says.
While many of those indicted during Precious Cargo pled guilty, two individuals chose to go to trial. Both were convicted and received 35- and 45-year sentences.
Another effort that has earned Konstas recognition is Operation Cross Country, a weekend sting operation that attempts to recover as many child victims as possible. In the first four weekends of the operation, nearly 200 children were recovered.
For all her success, Konstas looks back to Mason as the place it began. Among the first students to enroll in New Century College, she chose the program because of its hands-on learning opportunities. One of her internships through NCC was at NCMEC, where she met the FBI agent assigned to the organization.
“I thought she had the absolutely best job in the world,” Konstas says.
Konstas’s childhood aspiration to work for the FBI came true a few months after she graduated from Mason. By 2005, she was in her dream job at NCMEC. “Everything just sort of lined itself up,” Konstas says.
She credits her husband, Perry Konstas, BA Philosophy ’00, with providing the support she needs to do such difficult work. The couple, who met as Mason students, has a daughter and a son.
This story originally appeared in the Fall 2010 Mason Spirit magazine.
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