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Horizons: Family Office & Investor Magazine

Mitzi Perdue: Selling Heirlooms to Stop the Sale of People

Monday, September 16, 2019

Mitzi Perdue is the daughter of Ernest Henderson, the man who built the Sheraton hotels from one hotel to more than 400 during his lifetime and was the first hotel chain to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1947. She is also the wife of Frank Perdue whose promotion of the Perdue brand through high-profile advertising resulted in creating the first well-known brand of chicken in the U.S.

While Frank is now recognized as a visionary – branding his Perdue Farm chickens with his own name and being the first to put a name tag on them – Mitzi says that as much as she admired him for his success in business, she admired him even more for his success as a family man. Mitzi is also a businesswoman in her own right. She started the family wine grape business, now one of the larger suppliers of wine grapes in California.

Mitzi likes nothing better than to share insider tips for successful family businesses. The Hendersons started their Henderson Estate Company in 1840 and her Perdue family started in 1920 in the poultry business. These two families have a combined tradition of 278 years of staying together as a family.

Selling Heirlooms to Stop the Sale of People

Without spending a single penny, you can play an important part in the global effort to combat human trafficking. We’ll tell you how in a moment, but first, exactly what is the issue?

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. Because this slavery is hidden, it’s impossible to know exactly how many people are victims, but the International Labor Organization estimates that 40 million people are enslaved right now. This is greater than all who were trafficked during the Atlantic Slave Trade (12.5 million). Human trafficking is among the three largest sources of revenue for organized crime.

Today, a large part of victims are pushed into sexual slavery: 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry are women and girls.

The life of a trafficked girl is unthinkably grim. She usually enters into prostitution at age 12-14. She is violated eight or more times a day for 365 days. Her life expectancy is seven years. She is likely to die of suicide, an overdose, disease, or violence at the hands of her trafficker or one of her customers.

To illustrate just how big the problem of trafficking is, imagine this: according to Tim Ballard from Operation Underground Railroad, with the money made in human trafficking every year, you could buy every Starbuck’s franchise in the world, every National Basketball Association team in the United States, and every Target store across the globe.

What Can Be Done?

The goal of the Global Anti-Trafficking Auction is to raise both money for and awareness about anti- trafficking organizations. We’ll be doing it through a celebrity auction in January of 2021.

The funds we raise will enable organizations that are fighting human trafficking to spend less time on fund-raising and more time on delivering services such as:

  • Prevention
  • Rescue
  • Rehabilitation

What Can You Do?

You can be a part of the Celebrity Heirloom Auction at Christie’s. The price of entry is, donate an heirloom with a minimum appraised value of $250,000. Ideally, your item has an attention-getting story to it.

We’re looking for items with stories because we’re arranging with global media outlets to cover some of the heirloom donations. Among the donations already pledged:

Atocha Emerald Ring

The Atocha Emerald Ring was part of the treasure on board the ship Nuestra Senora de Atocha. The Atocha, owned by King Philip IV, was a Spanish treasure galleon in a fleet of twenty-eight ships bound for Spain which sank along with five others in a major hurricane on September 6, 1622. The treasure, which arrived by mule in Panama City, was so immense that it took two months to record and load it onto the ship.

After news reached Spain about the loss of the galleons, the Spaniards undertook salvage operations for several years with the use of Indian slaves, recovering nearly half of the registered part of its cargo from the holds of sister ship Santa Margarita.

However, the Spanish never located Nuestra Senora de Atocha. In 1985, American treasure hunters Mel Fisher, Finley Ricard and a team of sub-contractors, funded by investors, found the ship after searching the sea bed for sixteen and a half years. The Atocha is the most valuable shipwreck ever recovered, as it was carrying roughly 40 tonnes of gold and silver, and 32 kilograms of emeralds.

12 Imperial Banquet Plates

These plates come from the Summer Palace, St. Petersburg, and were made in the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory during the reign of Nicholas I (1796- 1855) for his son, the future Tsar Alexander II (1818- 1881).

Tsar Alexander II is famous emancipating the serfs (unfree peasants) in Russia in 1881, allowing them to marry, hold property, and vote and thus ending Russia’s Age of Serfdom which began in 1649.

According to the census of 1857, the number of private serfs was 23.1 million out of 62.5 million Russians, or 37.7% of the population.

Marlene Dietrich Necklace

A diamond and sapphire necklace that belonged to the 1930s movie star Marlene Dietrich.

De Medici Desk

A De Medici desk with elaborate inlaid woodwork. The coat of arms indicates it actually belonged to a De Medici Cardinal.

What’s in It for You

In addition to helping fight the evil and suffering of human trafficking:

  • Tax Deductions
  • Can you use a tax deduction? The Anti-Trafficking Auction may be able to transform your valuable items into tax deductions, although check with your accountant.

  • Recognition
  • Depending on what you donate and what the story behind it is, you and/or the anti- trafficking organization of your choice will receive considerable public appreciation for the gift. We also expect on-going focus on this from radio, television, YouTube, podcasts, and generally, all media outlets.

  • Make Room for Something New
  • You may have an object of value in storage or possibly you’d like to de-acquisition an item to make room for something new. You can achieve this while also creating enormous social benefit.

  • Attendance at one of the World’s Most Exclusive and Fun Parties
  • There will be a Night Before the Auction Party. Organizer of the event Mitzi Perdue is the daughter of the Co-Founder and President of the Sheraton Hotels, and having grown up in the hospitality industry, she knows how to throw a party. As a donor, you will be invited to spend time with the other donors at one of the world’s most exclusive and fun parties.

Find Out More

Please go to the website. You’ll learn about items others are donating. Also, sign up for our blog to learn about:

  • Amazing anti-trafficking success stories?
  • The highest of high-tech methods for catching and prosecuting traffickers.
  • What psychiatrists say about why traffickers do it
  • The monstrous techniques police officers have seen traffickers use to keep their victims from escaping

One of the reasons human trafficking flourishes is because people don’t know it exists. As it is, traffickers destroy people’s lives, and they can do it with impunity.

By becoming more aware of the issue, you will be part of the global effort to shut them down.

Whether you’re able to donate an item for the Global Anti-Trafficking Auction or not, we’d very much like to have you be a part of this team.

Matthias Knab: I was reading your site GA-TA.Org and also the blog, what an eye opening resource you have built here! I recommend everyone to take a look. I am certainly getting involved personally and will assist you and your project in any way I can. One aspect that struck me was that it seems that in all countries, particularly young boys, girls and women are victims from human trafficking and exploitation, no matter how developed or under-developed.

Mitzi Perdue: This is correct. Traffickers are able to find vulnerable, often marginalized people in any country and region. Targets typically include run-away and homeless youth, the very poor, LGBTQ youth, children in foster care. The problem is exacerbated in areas where law enforcement has collapsed, such as in war-torn countries or areas that have experienced a natural disaster.

As Tim Ballard also explained in my blog, members of trafficking rings aren’t like what you see in Hollywood, where they kidnap someone from their home. It’s much easier to go into a poor area where law enforcement is scant.

For example, a trafficker might visit an impoverished village and see a pretty little girl there. He’ll seek out her parents, and pretending to be a businessman, he tells the parents, “My wife and I want your daughter to be the nanny for our children. We’ll pay you $500 a week.”

The $500 is a fortune to the parents, and seeing how nicely-dressed he is, they believe him. The “businessman” then leaves with their daughter and neither are ever heard from again.

One particularly monstrous case was Kelly Suarez, a beauty queen who ran a modeling agency in Colombia. She’d tell the parents of pretty young girls, “I’m giving your daughter a scholarship for my modeling agency.”

The parents were delighted. She led them to think, “My daughter is going to be rich and famous!”

Instead, Suarez would traffic the girls to rich people from North America. She’d tell the girls, “If you tell what’s going on, your family will be killed!” None of the little girls told their parents what was happening to them.

But it can also happen in the middle of first world cities. And the internet can often be a part of the problem.

Here’s a typical way it gets started. A 12-year old girl is in a chat room and finds that she’s made a new friend. He’s a little older, but he’s interested in everything about her. They text and text, and she feels wonderful, having someone who really cares about her and who understands the problems she’s having with her parents.

When he asks her to send him a picture, she quickly sends him a selfie. He tells her, “OMG, yr beautiful!” A few texts later, he tells her, “Thinking about U every moment! Pls, pls, pls, picture of U no clothes!.” By this point, he’s her best friend, and wanting to please him she, she sends him naked pictures.

Unfortunately for her, this was a really bad move. He tells her if she doesn’t do X, Y, and Z, he’ll show the naked pictures to her parents. The girl has been groomed, and it’s not many steps to more explicit videos and then to being trafficked. He may say something along the lines of, “Meet me at the movie theater, or I’ll show your whole school the pictures of you masturbating.” She shows

up, he kidnaps her and tragically, she becomes another of the millions of children who are trafficked each year.

And then there are countless schemes how traffickers initiate contact in the real world. Mindy [all names are changed] was living in Brooklyn, New York, and up to now, her mother had always insisted that someone older accompany her every time she went outside. This was true even if was just walking to school.

But today, her Mom told her, “Mindy, you’re old enough to go out of the house alone now! You can take that volunteer job in the community garden you’ve been wanting!”

Mindy, she told me that at this time she was thinking, “This is so exciting. It’s the first time I’ve ever gone out without a grownup watching me!”

She said that as she walked toward the mall, she was thinking, “Life is better than I ever dreamed! This is so fun!’”

Then the best thing of all happened to her. When she was at the local mall, she made a new friend! He was this incredibly cool 17-year old guy (at least he told her he was 17) and he told her he liked her!

Over the next couple of weeks, she and Darnell Waters began texting each other 20 times a day. She was happier than she had ever imagined she could be.

There was, however, a problem. Darnell was starting to press her to have sex with him. She was brought up in a strict, socially conservative home, and she and her Mom attended religious services every Sunday. She told him, “I’m a religious person. I love you, but I can’t do this!”

He kept insisting, “If you really loved me, you would!” Mindy was terrified of losing the man she was madly in love with. And then one-day... she did it.

She knew how much her Mom would disapprove, but this was what was meant to be! Now she was really his and he was really hers.

She told me, “I thought we’d be together forever! I thought this would forever seal the deal!”

But then something went terribly wrong. Out of the blue, he stopped answering her texts.

This was so different from what she was expecting.

She kept desperately texting him and he never answered.

Now she was sobbing nonstop, but she couldn’t tell her Mom. She was afraid her Mom would go crazy if she found out what her daughter had done.

Mindy told me she was desperate and lost. She had never even imagined such horrible pain.

Darnell was the one who was responsible for every bit of this pain, but as she told me, “I was only a little girl. I didn’t know anything, and I was desperate. I went back to Darnell’s place and pleaded with him. “Please love me, I’ll do anything, anything if you’ll keep loving me.”

Darnell said he’d take her back, but there were “some things” she’d need to do.

I bet you can guess what those “some things” were.

Mindy moved in with Darnell but she soon discovered that she had to earn $500 on the streets each night and hand it over to him. If she didn’t, she’d face a beating. Darnell told her that if

she tried to leave, he knew where her Mom lived and he’d kill her Mom.

Four other girls were living there, and one of them, Jazmin, became her roommate. All the girls were each trafficked seven or eight times a night.

Meanwhile, Darnell, living off his five girls had a tax-free income of more than $1 million a year.

Mindy had hoped to be the love of Darnell’s life, and now she was nothing more than a terrified slave.

One night, early on she saw what happened to her roommate Jazmin when Darnell was mad at her. Darnell started pummeling and beating Jazmin until she was a bleeding mass on the floor. When Darnell left the room, Mindy saw bloody spit drooling from her roommate’s jaw. The poor woman was holding onto her belly as if her guts might spill out.

Mindy’s life had become an unending nightmare. One night, five men gang-raped her. She remembers crying and begging them to stop, and then suddenly she went all numb and she couldn’t feel anything at all. She told me she felt so numb it was as if was both alive and dead at the same time.

Mindy hated the life she had been forced into. She was sleep-deprived, terrorized, and Darnell made sure she developed such a low opinion of herself that She. Thought. She. Deserved. This.

After more than a year, Mindy did manage to escape but it was so traumatic that she told me she can’t even remember the details. The first thing she remembers about her escape is that she woke up beaten and bruised somewhere nearby in New Jersey. She had enough money to get a bus ride to the Port Authority in New York City.

A Port Authority policeman saw her and guessed that she was a victim of trafficking. His first effort was to reunite Mindy with her Mom, but Mom wasn’t emotionally equipped to handle what her daughter had become.

Mindy had been so beaten up, so emotionally traumatized, she was now so different, that her mother just couldn’t deal with it. The police officer took her to a home for victims of trafficking. It’s called GEMS, Girls Educating, and Mentoring Services. For the next four years, Mindy was with people who helped her recover.

Mindy is 28 now, dresses nicely, her hair is smoothly-styled in a ponytail, and she holds a responsible job. If you were to meet Mindy in person, you’d never ever guess her story.

In this story, Mindy was able to escape. In my blog I also wrote about the archetypical story Dr. Andrea Nichols, author of Sex Trafficking in the United States, has experienced countless times where the victimizer has been able to manipulate the victim to the point she wouldn’t want to leave her victimizer. Even if she’s found and put into foster care or juvenile detention, “she may run away the first chance she gets. She’ll return to her boyfriend/trafficker even though her trafficker has several other girls that he’s ‘turning out.’”

We already mentioned that trafficking rings aren’t like what you see in Hollywood. We’ve all heard of kids locked in basements or abducted from their neighborhoods, but these are a minority of the cases when it comes to real world abuse and human trafficking. You see, this is why in our campaigns we also focus so much on helping the public to become more aware of what child trafficking usually looks like.

The good news, though, is that the research is getting better, we know more about identifying people who are being trafficked, and that we know more about preventing the situation in the first place.

Matthias Knab: I was also fascinated to read about the Guardian Group in your blog.

Mitzi Perdue: Correct, the Guardian Group is a “Team of Teams,” comprised of former special operations military, law enforcement and intelligence community professionals, working to disrupt sex trafficking in the United States.

The Guardian Group fills an important gap in law enforcement. One of the obstacles to disrupting sex- trafficking rings is that law enforcement personnel in general are already over-burdened. They universally want to help address the atrocity of human trafficking, but unfortunately, traffickers can make themselves invisible by:

  • Hiding their activities behind the dark web
  • Using untraceable burner phones
  • Registering traceable items in the victim’s name, not their own
  • Using force, fraud, coercion, & terror and typically moving their victims every few days from one geographic area to another
  • Intimidating the victims not to turn evidence

Local residents and citizens may not be aware of trafficking, or may not know how to recognize it. Law enforcement in general doesn’t have the specialized resources to find the bad guys and may lack budgets. This is particularly true since the bad guys are a moving target and often continuously move from one jurisdiction to another.

The Guardians, however, have a real-world equivalent of “super powers.” With their sophisticated military and intelligence skills, they can find people who otherwise might be invisible to law enforcement. Guardians use things like search algorithms, facial recognition, and the ability to find suspicious patterns that might never be recognized by people who lack the Guardians’ technical skills.

The Guardian Group, like most non-profits, struggles to maintain sufficient funding to maintain maximum efficacy. There’s a line out the door of retired special ops professionals interested in joining this team, but they need additional funding to hire them. Their skills could save many thousands of innocent girls and boys from a life as close to Hell as anything we’ll see in this life.

Again, what we try to communicate to the public is that human trafficking is a humongous problem, and that it must end. 40 million enslaved is more than the entire population of Canada (37m), Poland (38m) and California (39m).

It is an “industry” which is taking on ever more absurd and murderous forms such as putting humans into shipping containers to move them around the globe by the thousands. If the victim happens to survive the storms, the heat (temperatures in containers can rise to 50C (122F) or even 60C (140F)), the ship will eventually make land and the victim is finally in America! Or Saudi Arabia or Britain.

The container is next winched off the ship and onto a waiting truck. The victim may think the ordeal is over, except it isn’t: Human traffickers await them. They were set up for this even before they left their country, and the person who did the setup was the same smuggler who took all their money. The victim is in most cases not able to speak the language – sick, hungry, scared, demoralized and in no condition to resist and with no papers, it’s once more the perfect prey and the trafficker acts with impunity because he knows that no one knows to look for them.

We are proud and excited to be able to support organization such as The Guardians and many others that you can read about at and we hope that as many people as possible will join and support us.

Mitzi Perdue is the organizer of the Global Anti- Trafficking Auction. She’s a businesswoman, author, and speaker. Contact her at:

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