PITTSBURGH—February 6, 2019—The Pittsburgh non-profit National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA) in partnership with Marinus Analytics and the Auton Lab at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) supported federal law enforcement in a nationwide sex trafficking takedown.

An organized crime ring was indicted in January on charges of operating Asian brothels in 12 U.S. cities and Toronto. The nationwide sting operation included the takedown of nearly 500 website domains. The computer systems utilized by the illicit organization logged more than 30,000 customer phone numbers with details of prostitution dates.  Six people were charged with running the sex trafficking organization, which recruited and exploited foreign national women primarily from China to engage in sex trafficking activities.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Oregon recognized the NCFTA’s assistance on the case. The NCFTA identified the cyber presence of the criminal group and assisted in seizure of the related websites. “It’s not a fluke that Pittsburgh has become the epicenter for combatting cybercrime,” says NCFTA President & CEO Matt LaVigna. “This case demonstrates that we are making an impact by leveraging public-private relationships and innovation in our community.  It is especially gratifying when we can combine these resources to assist law enforcement in disrupting such a heinous crime.” The NCFTA originated the leads for this case in Marinus Analytics’ Traffic Jam software, alerting federal agents to the criminal organization.

“Pittsburgh has been at the forefront of developing modern approaches to combating the hidden crime of sex trafficking,” says Marinus Analytics CEO & Co-Founder, Cara Jones. “Private-public partnerships like these have produced effective methods and tools to keep law enforcement ahead of the curve in the digital era. This important work originating in Pittsburgh has had impact on an international level.”

The Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool called Traffic Jam used by the NCFTA in this work was originated by the researchers at the CMU Auton Lab, and transitioned to a widespread use in law enforcement by the CMU spinoff, Marinus Analytics. “When properly used, AI can be tremendously helpful in addressing important societal challenges,” states the Auton Lab’s Director Artur Dubrawski. “As with other advanced technologies, the ultimate success requires collaborative efforts of researchers, industry, and the community of its end-users.”

Marinus Analytics, the NCFTA, and Carnegie Mellon University continue to be committed to developing innovative solutions to our world’s most pressing problems.


About the NCFTA

The NCFTA, established in 2002, is a nonprofit partnership between private industry, government and academia for the sole purpose of providing a neutral, trusted environment that enables two-way collaboration and cooperation to identify, mitigate and disrupt cybercrime. Since 2015, the NCFTA has supported federal and international human trafficking investigations.

About Marinus Analytics

Marinus Analytics is a women-owned Pittsburgh-based company which provides actionable intelligence tools for law enforcement and social workers. The company is currently one of 30 international teams involved in the AI for Good XPRIZE. The company’s AI software platform for sex trafficking investigations, Traffic Jam, has received funding support from the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, and has been developed and deployed to law enforcement in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

About the Auton Lab

The Auton Lab, part of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, researches new approaches to artificial intelligence and its applications. It is led by Artur Dubrawski, Jeff Schneider, and Barnabas Poczos.