Jose Alfaro says he was perfect prey for a sex trafficker because of the color of his skin.
The Mexican American youth was 16 years old and homeless when he reached out for help on the internet more than a decade ago.
He joined a gay chat room and met an older man named Jason Gandy who offered him empathy and a place to stay.
“It seemed like a dream, and at the time, not having anywhere to go,” Alfaro says now.
But the dream quickly became a grim reality. Gandy told Alfaro he would have to work in the older man’s “massage” business, which was a euphemism for prostitution. Alfaro provided sexual massages to Gandy’s clients in his Texas home in transactions that escalated to sexual assault.
Gandy would go on to become the centerpiece of one of the most notorious male sex trafficking cases to be tried in a U.S. federal courtroom. Three of his four documented victims, including Alfaro, were Latino. But at the beginning, Alfaro thought Gandy was just providing a place he could call home.
Many young men have traveled the same path to homelessness and then to sexual exploitation — and young Black and brown men are disproportionately at risk.
“Race plays a major role in human trafficking,” said Alfaro, who is 29 and now works as a hairstylist on Boston’s Newbury Street.