World-renowned private investigator opens up in about just how bad human trafficking is in America – and what becomes of the victims

We recently had the opportunity to have a conversation with an absolutely fascinating individual, a renowned private investigator named Logan Clarke of Global Pursuit Investigations.

Clarke has spent over 40 years in both government and private investigations and is considered one of the top investigators in the world. He has been profiled in a BBC documentary, five books, Newsweek, Crime Watch Daily, NBC’s Dateline and numerous other publications and television shows worldwide.

Our discussion centered around a number of topics, but our conversation about human trafficking was by far the most interesting, yet disturbing things we talked about.

Clarke is the co-founder of an organization called the International Human Trafficking Task Force (IHTTF), the goal of which is to “combat human trafficking and support existing government efforts across global jurisdictions; to increase the number of investigations that lead to rescued victims and prosecutions of human traffickers.”

While many people, ourselves included are aware that human trafficking is a significant issue, Clarke’s statement that over 100,000 women and young girls per year are victimized by this crime is shocking. What was even more disturbing is that victims of human trafficking average only 13-years of age.

Who are these young girls? Clarke said they are typically runaways or throw-aways while many are kidnapped by gangs. He said these gangs are typically Mexican or Russian gangs, with Mexican cartels being the primary offenders.

These girls are broken by the gangs, with some getting raped over 50 times per day. Once that occurs, the girls will pretty much do anything these gangs tell them to do.

We’ve heard the stories about the “white vans,” and while some think that is something of an “old-wives tale,” in fact that is what these gangs typically use, having two or more gang members in the back of the van and taking the girls by force.

Once kidnapped, the victims are typically taken out of state to “safe-houses” and are moved state-to-state, from safe-house to safe-house.

The girls are then used by cartels as mules to transport narcotics.

What becomes of these victims after the gangs are done with them? This is by far the most disturbing thing Clarke told us.

When gangs finish getting what they can out of these girls, they are literally hacked into pieces, placed in 55-gallon drums of acid, and what is left afterward is dispersed in the desert, never to be found.

According to Clarke’s bio, he and his team have investigated over 20,000 cases ranging from Murder to the “Mann Act,” a federal law that criminalizes the transportation of “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.”

Clarke and his team have also rescued some 350 kidnap and runaway victims, some of whom were forced into human trafficking in places from the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Asia and moreover right here in the United States.

One of Clarke’s higher profile rescues involved a father in Austin, Texas, whose two sons were kidnapped and taken to Mexico by their mother. While Clarke wouldn’t reveal the details of the recovery, he was able to recover the two boys and reunite them with their father, Steven James in April 2014.

 

Yet another rescue was far more difficult. In 1992, Omar Noman and his sister A’ishah, then only five and three were kidnapped by their father and taken to the Middle Eastern country of Yemen. These types of kidnappings are actually rather common and rarely are successful. The story was reported last February in the Daily Mail.

Clarke was hired by the children’s mother, Sarah to attempt to retrieve the children. What happened after this is reminiscent of a Hollywood thriller.

Clarke set about to put together a plan to rescue the children, in some ways like the Iranian hostage rescue that inspired the movie Argo.

Clarke put together a fake production company in order to attempt the rescue. Sadly unlike the movie Argo, where the hostages were rescued, this story initially had a not-so-happy ending. Omar and A’ishah—guarded by heavily armed family members of their father—were not rescued.

They lived their childhood in Yemen and their mother Sarah, who had hired Clarke, was lost during a second attempt to herself rescue the children when her boat sunk in the Red Sea. Her body was never recovered, and Clarke believes the sinking was not an accident.

So what became of Omar? He is living in the United States, a specialist with the National Guard stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, CO.

Omar tracked down Clarke to his office in Huntington Beach, California, seeking to find out the real story of what had happened to his mother.

“I never really knew the full truth about what happened to my mother, so it was important to me to meet with Logan”[Clarke], Omar said.

“He told me what my mother did, and I was brought to tears.”

Clarke said that Sarah’s husband, Abdul Aziz came to the US as a business student, where he met Sarah. They married and had two children, however he wanted to go back to Yemen. A religious man, he “wanted his children raised in a certain way,” Clarke said.

The marriage broke down and Sarah gained custody of Omar and his sister. Aziz was given visitation of the children, but the court actually took their passports, fearing their father would flee the country with them.

Aziz was able to obtain Yemeni passports for the kids under the ruse that he was going to take the children to Disneyland, then fled the country.

Clarke said Sarah had gone through every official means to get her kids back to no use.

“Any custody battle with any Middle Eastern country is a losing battle,” Clarke said, citing his hundreds of similar cases.

Clarke told the Daily Mail of the difficulty in making a recovery from a country such as Yemen, noting “you don’t just jump on a plane and go over there and do a rescue,” he said.

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“In those days they carried guns, like AK47s, like we carry briefcases, so we had to do a lot of planning.”

In 1993, there was a meeting in New York City of the World Association of Detectives, and Clarke seized upon the opportunity to recruit a team of experts to help him rescue Sarah’s children.

“It was perfect timing, and I needed a team of guys, real specialists,” Clarke said.

With his team in place, Clarke set up a film production company called Hollywood Caper Films and set about putting together a faux Hollywood action movie set in the desert ostensibly starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Elle Macpherson.

So intricate was the plot that he had business cards and t-shirts with the fake movie production name printed on the front. He provided Yemeni officials with a Hollywood Caper Films phone number and if anyone called, a hotline in his office was set up.

Clarke set up a deep cover operation, with his staff briefed that if anyone called the office about the movie they were to play along.

“It’s called deep cover and I still have the company and we’ve produced two films with it,” Clarke said.

He noted that Yemen, located on the southern border of Saudi Arabia and is surrounded on three sides by water. However the country has always had a contentious relationship with the west.

In order to produce the fake movie, Clarke said, he would need a script.

“I told my team, “I need desert, I need ocean. I need a port, I need camels and it’s got to be in the Middle East,” he said.

“But don’t get me Lawrence of Arabia—everybody knows that one.”

They received a script for a 1987 movie called “Ishtar,” a Hollywood flop that starred Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman. Clarke took the front cover off the script and renamed the movie “Return to Aden”—a reference to the port city of Aden where Omar and A’ishah were being held, a move which he referred to as “ballsy.”

Clarke said the “Canadian Caper” used as a basis for Argo wasn’t his inspiration for the Yemen plot.

Clarke joked that, “As well as an investigator, I’m an actor, we’ve been pulling the fake movie scam to rescue kids since the early 70’s,” he said. “Maybe the CIA stole the idea from me.”

Clarke went through the process of getting permits from the Yemeni government, had location scouting contracts printed up and they were ready to go.

Clarke and his team entered the country through Yemen, while the plan for Sarah Norman was to have her smuggled into Yemen by boat across the Red Sea from Africa. Norman and her escort, a former Navy Seal, landed on a small beachhead under cover of darkness and disguised themselves in burkas.

They then set about conducting recon in the area under cover of scouting film locations, which took over a month, whereby Sarah ran out of money. However so enthralled by the case, Clarke and his partner Keith Schafferius agreed to work pro-bono, eating the $55,000 cost.

When they eventually got the surveillance and a plan underway, they decided to make their move. Clarke had hoped the kids would merely come out of the house they were in to play, where they would have merely grabbed the children, however that didn’t’ occur.

So they moved to Plan B.

“We had to try something riskier,” Clarke said.

“We were near the property, and I got Sarah to call and speak to her son Omar,” Clarke recalled.

“She’s in the car dressed in a burka and she’s saying to him, look, I have a present for you. I’ve sent it over to you. Come downstairs, just go downstairs and my friends will give you the present.”

“We had our guys, they’re ready for Omar and his sister to come downstairs, grab them, and put them into the car. We also had some locals and other kids in the vicinity on the pretense we were shooting location scenes. It was quite chaotic.”

This however when things turned.

Omar had apparently told his uncle that someone was outside with a present for him, which raised suspicions. The uncle took the kids to their aunt’s house instead.

Clarke said when a man came out of the building, he decided he needed to take a more aggressive stance.

“I walked up to him, and I put my hand in his back like I had a gun and I told him, I said, ;just take me upstairs, let me go upstairs.’ I just kind of went with the confusion and the guy starts to go.”

Suddenly, things went from bad to worse as Clarke climbed the stairs.

Several of Aziz’s family members came out of several exits carrying knives and AK47s, pointing them at Clarke and his team. Abdulaziz wasn’t there at that particular time.

“I look up the stairway and I see these AK47s pointing at me. It was game over,” Clarke said.

Feeling outnumbered and outgunned, Clarke said, the mission was over.

When Omar turned 18, he decided to return to the United States to finish high school and go to college. Having been told his mother had died of cancer when he was a young boy, he planned to visit her final resting place in Lakewood. Then he was hit with the bad news.

He said around a month prior to leaving, his father told him his mother had not in fact died of cancer, but rather she had disappeared in the Red Sea.

It was years later when Omar looked up Logan Clarke.

“It took me another 10 years to have the courage to go and actually contact Logan and talk to him about what really happened,” Omar said.

Clarke showed him among other things a disturbing video of his mother in Yemen just hours after the failed rescue attempt.

“I remember the most heartbreaking part of the video was her crying and saying that she will kill herself if she doesn’t bring us out of Yemen,” said Omar.

Sarah decided to make yet another attempt the year after the initial failed rescue attempt, which Clarke said he tried to talk her out of. It was during that failed attempt that her boat sank in the Red Sea.

Clarke told the Daily Mail and us that the failed rescue attempt still haunts him today. He told us that Sarah’s case in particular had a profound effect on him due to her overwhelming love for her two children.

In his statement to the Mail, he said:

“After some 350 rescues of women and children throughout the world, I have witnessed extreme illustrations of parental love—but none more blistering, no more haunting, than Sarah’s love for her two children.

“It is the ultimate display of a mother’s love and determination. She was a phenomenal woman, who’s world was torn apart by one man’s possessiveness, revenge and greed—to keep his children away from their mother.

“With every rescue I do, there is always a part of me that is still trying to rescue Sarah.

“It just wasn’t in the cards…to have an Argo ending.”

When we got back to the topic of foreign human trafficking, we asked about the “Taken” movies and how accurate they were in portraying the trafficking of young women.

“One hundred percent accurate—actually almost 100%,” he said. “The part about the violent kidnapping, the drugs, the torture, bidding on them—yeah that’s all accurate.”

“Pure girls, the virgins? Oh yeah, they draw big money from these guys. They’re worth a lot on the trafficking black market.”

And what of Liam Neeson’s character Brian Mills, who single handedly takes out a gang of eastern Europeans from the country of Tropoja who are involved in kidnapping girls in Paris and having them auctioned off?

“But for one man to do all that on his own? That would never happen,” Clarke said. “They would have cut him to pieces.”

Absolutely fascinating interview and a captivating man. We’ll have a follow up story involving Kasey Kasem of American Top 40 fame… and Logan Clarke’s involvement in his rescue.

It’s worth noting that Clarke is one of a handful of internationally known and respected private investigators known for their skills and abilities to close a case.

Another is a longtime friend and college of Clarke’s – an up and coming legend in his own right that Law Enforcement Today has had the privilege of profiling in the past.

That man is Stephen Komorek, who is often referred to as the “human lie detector”.

In case you missed it… here’s the backstory on Komorek and his work.

Conflict International is a well-established intelligence, investigation, and surveillance agency that operates worldwide, with offices in New York and across the United States, linking to their global network based in London, Spain, Cyprus, and Hong Kong.

Their agency has decades of experience with a team of skilled and experienced professionals.

Recently, the agency’s U.S. Operations Director, Stephen Komorek joined the podcast, The Trial Brief where he spoke with David Oddo on how human lie detection can be taught.

David is a prominent New York attorney who has obtained many large verdicts and settlements for his clients during his 25-plus year career as a civil litigator.

On his podcast, The Trial Brief, he has conversations, discusses his thoughts, and has interviews with those involved in law and politics in today’s world. Stephen, as Trial Brief Reports is “an expert in Human Lie Detection, a skill that has been very helpful for lawyers and investigators.”

Stephen has completed vigorous training courses in Micro Expressions developed and taught by Dr. Paul Ekman.

Dr. Ekman Ph.D, is the world’s foremost expert in facial expressions and a professor emeritus at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco. Dr. Paul Ekman has appeared on 48 Hours, Dateline, Good Morning America, 20/20, Larry King, Oprah, Johnny Carson and many other TV programs.

He has also been featured on various public television programs such as News Hour with Jim Lehrer, and Bill Moyers’ the Truth About Lying. Articles reporting on Dr. Ekman’s work has appeared in Time Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, Psychology Today, The New Yorker and others. He is also the author of 16 books and over 100 articles.

Law Enforcement Today reached out to Mr. Komorek about his passion for the industry. He stated that “Intelligence, history and strategy has been my interest and dedication for almost two decades”

He added, about training in the private sector “I wondered…what other training is available, and what other training is out there.”

During the podcast Stephen went further on training in Human Lie Detection:

“I went out, and I got a lot of training in a lot of different disciplines, and the best discipline that I’ve found, the one that I believe works the best, is the Body Language Assessment and Scoring Technique. So, I was trained in that.”

Stephen then went on to discuss what happens when a person lies and when a person is trying to be deceitful.

He said:

“What can we do to detect that [Deception]? Well, what happens to the body? There is a psychological response that happens, and there are [Physical] signs of stress in deception. Specifically, there’s increased brain function [during the forming of the deception] to make the lie more believable.”

He added:

“It takes more processing power in the brain to tell the lie than it does to actually come up with the truth. In being able to spot that, we have what’s called leakage. “

In 2019, Stephen was awarded the title of “Master Trainer of Lie Detection” by Doug Whetstone “In recognition of scholarly attainment, distinguished service and on nomination of the Faculty of the Body Language and Scoring Technique”. Stephen is also a certified Instructor in the Technique.

Doug Whetstone developed The Body Language Assessment and Scoring Technique. Mr. Whetstone has received numerous awards and accolades from senior officials of the White House, Secret Service, NSA, CIA, FBI, DIA, DEA, and U.S. Customs for his significant contributions to the security, counterintelligence, analysis, and force protection fields.

He has more than 30 years of experience in the US Intelligence Community, to include performing counterterrorism (CT) and counterintelligence (CI) threat analysis and security screening. He also served in the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Presidential Protection Program.

Stephen also recently spoke as a guest speaker for the Society of Professional Investigators (SPI), which is based out of the greater New York City area to deliver his “exceptional” human lie deception detection webinar.

Jason Cohen, one of the board members on SPI has worked with Stephen on many cases, and was the one to suggest bringing Stephen to a meeting to present on human deception detection.

He wrote a statement:

“Stephen mentions that everyone tells small lies throughout their daily lives, some insignificant and harmless, but when we intentionally try to deceive others, that’s what we have to be cognizant about.”

He added:

“Stephen points out the subtle subconscious cues that many in our law enforcement and private investigations field can and should utilize during our interrogations with clients, witnesses, and subjects.”

He reiterated:

“There is no doubt in my mind or our hundreds of members who watched live or streamed the video link afterwards, that Stephen’s course on human deception detection will provide opportunities for those that would have never received it otherwise.”

Jason said that Stephen’s presentation was a refreshing and an unconventional way of education on this psychological and behavioral topic. 

In a recommendation letter penned concerning Mr. Komorek’s expertise in Human Lie Detection, Cohen stated   “There is no doubt in my mind, or our hundreds of members who watched live or streamed the video link afterwards, that Stephen’s course on human deception detection will provide opportunities for those that would have never received it otherwise. I am fortunate to have my masters degree in Investigative Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC. I am a retired NYPD detective who worked in Organized Crime (narcotics, gang, firearms, vice and eventually for the Chief of Detectives Office) and now as a licensed private investigator with my own firm. Even with my decades of experience, I viewed Stephen’s presentation as refreshing and an unconventional way of education on this psychological and behavioral topic.”

Stephen said:

“And remember, people are always going to show leakage differently and those deception indicators in which they use are going to be consistent, so you’ll be able to spot it.” He concluded, “Always remember, just because a person is being deceptive, doesn’t mean they are being deceitful.”

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Check out the article below from Law Enforcement Today about professionalism of Conflict International:

Conflict International is a well-established intelligence, investigation, and surveillance agency with offices worldwide, specifically in London and New York. Their team consists of highly skilled individuals with various professional backgrounds offering a wealth of knowledge and experience to their clients.

Recently, they had the opportunity to speak at the first ever virtual World Association of Detectives (WAD) conference.

WAD is a global alliance of investigators and security professionals with origins dating all the way back to 1921. It is the longest established and largest association of its kind in the entire world. WAD was formed as a joint effort by the combined membership of the World Association of Detectives and the International Secret Service Association.

According to their website, WAD was formed for the following purposes:

To promote and maintain the highest ethical practices in the profession of private investigator or security service;

To select for membership only those individuals whose personal and professional backgrounds and business affiliations have strictly observed the precepts of truth, accuracy, and prudence;

To eliminate unreliable, incompetent, and irresponsible members of the profession;

To foster and perpetuate a spirit of cooperation among its members and with all those engaged in law enforcement and;

To further and establish a mutual feeling of trust, goodwill, and friendship among agencies throughout the world.

Below are a few testimonials from WAD’s website:

  • “The W.A.D. network allows our firm to consistently meet our clients demands for global information on short notice”
  • “W.A.D. platform is a true professional’s dream of having networking all over the world.”
  • “W.A.D. not only provides excellent international referrals, but promotes life-long friendships that also lead to business opportunities.”

In a recent news release, Conflict International detailed their plans for the virtual WAD conference. According to the release, Conflict’s U.S. Operations Director, Stephen Komorek, who also currently serves as the Sergeant at Arms, hosted a Skill Set workshop at the WAD conference for international investigators on Human Lie Detection.

To date, Stephen is the only sergeant at arms to be specifically requested, and serve under three consecutive presidents.

Stephen humbly said:

“It is truly an honor.”

The workshop that Stephen ran at the WAD conference is a continuation of a previous webinar, and is part of a 16 hour course that focuses on detecting deception in word expression. All who completed the workshop were awarded a Certificate of completion.

Immediately following Stephen’s workshop, Conflict International CEO and Chairman of the WAD, Mike LaCorte moderated a panel of experienced officers from the Association. Mike is the first chairman to ever be elected twice for consecutive terms.

During this panel, they discussed how the “new normal” currently impacts international investigations. In addition, they discussed how professionals can continue to service clients at the highest level, regardless of the situation.

After the WAD conference, Stephen said:

“The first ever virtual conference for the World Association of Detectives was an extraordinary event with many great speakers and a panel consisting of leadership. The event included an informative panel hosted by WAD leadership and moderated by the chairman Mike LaCorte.”

He added:

“I was very honored to receive feedback from the membership of the WAD on the training seminar I gave on human lie detection. By the end of the training, they were able to enhance their abilities, even in the short amount of time we spent during the workshop.”

He concluded by saying:

“I look forward to giving an in-person training on the subject at the next WAD annual conference. Conflict is proud to continue our membership and hold leadership roles with WAD. Look forward to details for the next event hosted by WAD.”

________

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Author: Pat Droney


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