“Yeah, I’ve got you loud and clear,” Agent Jake Smith said after hearing Alina’s utterance on his headset. He then checked the monitor mounted to the electronics console in the Porta Pet van. “We’re all set. Just remember to find a way out of there if things go sideways.”
“Yeah, and we can’t go in without probable cause so say the words and make sure they take the bag. Or else get a view of the women in your camera,” Agent Kath Landry said as she opened the rear door letting Alina out and then added, “Don’t look at the agents – or anyone you pass.”
“Got it, just free Tatiana and get those assholes,” Alina said in her accented but fluent English as she exited the van.
Alina started her long walk toward the docks. She noticed a few people lingering around and suspected they might be agents. She averted her eyes as she passed by. She strode confidently onto the dock and made her way between the rows of expensive boats and yachts and towards its far end. Her destination was a sizable yacht moored along the last cross segment. Everything looked the same as when she left it early that morning, but seeing the vessel again gave her chills.
Alina and Tatiana each had paid a large fee to be smuggled into the country since they could not get US Visas. It wasn’t until they were locked into a cabin belowdecks with thirteen other Ukrainian girls that they understood their plight. She managed to convince the Russian gangsters that she and her sister were joining wealthy family members in Miami and that she would return with 250,000 US dollars, which was a lot more than the traffickers would get selling them into the sex trade. Now she was returning with a duffle bag filled with money to free the two of them from the greedy Russians.
Getting the FBI involved added risk but putting the criminals behind bars would be worth it, especially since she had gotten to know the other girls over the previous weeks. Plus, the agents promised to get the two of them green cards if her story was true and they made successful arrests.
Alina reached the side of the yacht and a tall dark-haired man that had often brought her and the others food and drink, materialized on the deck holding a machinegun.
“I’ve got it,” Alina said in Russian to the man.
The man looked at the duffle bag, looked around, opened a gate, and then helped her step up onto the deck. By then she had lost her nerve and the hand holding the bag was shaking profusely.
The man ushered her to a bulkhead and down steps into a large elaborate cabin where the other Russians were waiting. The six men were sitting on chairs at a dark wood table and along the walls. Two of the men were watching monitors that showed various views from around the yacht. The leader, sitting at the head of the table directly across from her, commanded the tall man to go back up on deck.
“You have the money?” he asked while giving Alina a cold stare.
“Yes, right here is the 250,000 dollars to free my sister and me.” She held out the bag.
“On the table and slide it to me.”
Alina pushed the bag across the table to the short, balding man. He opened the bag, saw the money, and commanded, “Lock her back in the cabin.” He had just started pulling bundles of 50s out of the duffle when the bulkhead door burst open and FBI agents raced down the stairs and into the compartment with their weapons ready.
“On the floor, hands behind your head,” Agent Landry commanded.
Two men along the walls raised machineguns but the agents fired first, and the gunmen never got shots off. They collapsed on the floor out of commission. The others raised their hands and got down on the floor. Two agents busted through a rear door and found fourteen young women packed inside the room.