At a time when the US Navy is facing a difficult challenge in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new report has surfaced which will rattle the defense establishment more. The US Navy in Bahrain has found itself involved in a sex-trafficking scandal, as per the new report which has detailed how sailors allegedly housed prostitutes in their apartments funded by taxpayers. The sailors, it has been claimed, allegedly paid for Thai prostitutes to be brought to the island nation in the Middle East where they would keep them hostage, by taking away their passports.
The accused sailors also used the guise of renting out their rooms to the women, which is not permitted, it has been said.
The scandal initially came to light in 2017 after a woman, who had been working as an informant since 2014, told the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) about her dealing with a sailor to bring in three Thai prostitutes. The sailor’s apartment was raided the same year by the NCIS and the woman’s passport was found there. He, however, was acquitted of the charges last year.
But the acquittal of the sailor did not end the matter there. It ignited a larger probe of the interactions that took place between sailors and prostitutes in Bahrain, catching several Navy personnel in the sting operations aimed at dealing with sex-trafficking.
The Military Times came up with a detailed report on the explosive issue on Tuesday, June 16, titled ‘Tinder, Hooker, Sailor, Pimp: The U.S Navy’s sex-trafficking scandal in Bahrain’in which it said: “At least nine sailors, including five chiefs and a lieutenant commander, have been charged since 2017. A senior chief and lieutenant junior grade were among at least six other sailors who have been administratively disciplined in connection to such infractions.”
The report also added that one accused chief told the NCIS two years ago that he suspected up to 15 percent of sailors assigned to Bahrain were keeping prostitutes in their apartments. He said many of them did not think that they could be in trouble for patronizing prostitution or keeping foreign nationals with them, the MT report added.
The chief also revealed that he ‘knew several of the women he paid to have sex with were engaged in debt bondage, owing their ‘mamasan’ approximately 2,500 [Bahraini dinar, or about $6,600], for coming to Bahrain’. ‘Mamasan’ is a woman pimp who manages her own stable of prostitutes that she trafficks, protects and profits from.
The case of a 29-year-old sailor from New Jersey
The scandal first came to light when Lin Raiwest – herself a prostitute but also a pimp who managed her own stable of prostitutes that she trafficked – told NCIS about her deal with Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Jihad H. Littlejohn. The 29-year-old sailor from New Jersey, who was then assigned to patrol ship Hurricane, had paid Raiwest for sex before coming up with a plan to bring in more women from Thailand.
During his trial last year, it was alleged that Littlejohn would keep the prostitutes in his off-post apartment and even put them to work like selling sex. He was also expected to deduct money from their earnings. According to court records, the sailor paid Raiwest 1,000 Bahraini dinar (about $2,650 at the time) to bear the cost of getting the prostitutes from Thailand to Bahrain. Raiwest gave him her passport as collateral which the NCIS found later.
In July 2017, the relationship between Littlejohn and Raiwest, who had also acted as an informant for the NCIS since 2014, worsened after the trafficked women did not show up at the sailor’s apartment, the prosecutors alleged. By August, Raiwest reported him. She handed over the details about the scheme and the text exchanges with Littlejohn but did not testify at his trial and he was cleared of all charges.
Captain Greg Smith, the current commander of NSA Bahrain, called the cases “shocking” during an interview last year. He said the Navy has been working to reduce interactions between sailors and prostitutes by putting certain establishments in the island-nation off the sailors’ limits.