An NFL cheerleader-turned-sports journalist was in for a shock when she found out that the promising Olympic reporting job for which she spent four months interviewing was probably something way scarier: a scam designed to trap her in the Russian sex trade.
Brittney Cason tells her tale — one so harrowing it almost sounds like a "my cousin went to elementary school with this girl who..." campfire urban legend — on XOJane today.
Like any fan of the Olympics, Cason dreamed of the opportunity to attend them and was stoked when a man contacted her about a media job covering the Games in Sochi. And things started innocently enough. She writes,
A man claiming to be a talent acquisition agent booking correspondents to cover the Sochi Olympics approached me via my website back in September. Given my background in sports broadcasting hosting a nationally syndicated motorsports show and working on sports talk radio, it made sense he was recruiting me.
Cason's no cub; she knew to double check the background of employers before signing anything. But this guy seemed legit; his digital presence didn't raise any red flags, and an associate of Cason vouched for him. She interviewed with him for four months, sending him multiple reels of her work, before being told she had gotten the job. Shortly thereafter, things got weird.
...two weeks before we were slated to depart for Russia, this "Talent Acquisitions Agent" said he needed to expand his host team and asked if I could get some more of my girlfriends in the industry to come to Sochi. I made some suggestions, then his "assistant" [...] sent me the link to print out a hard copy of a visa application for a girl to fill out and give to him.
Something didn't sit right with Cason; she and the other woman who had been "hired" by this man agreed that things didn't feel right, and so they went Bobsey Twins on this guy. It didn't take much digging before they discovered that it was all a sham.
That production company he claimed to work for had no idea who he was. His "assistant" was sending forms to Cason from the same IP address as her "boss," which means they were probably the same person. Cason ended up spending hours telling the FBI everything she knew about this guy, and their investigation is still ongoing.
Turns out, posing as a modeling or talent scout is a common way for human traffickers to lure unwitting women into foreign sex work, and the Olympics — that festival of sportsmanship and cooperation — also creates huge demand for sex workers in host cities. Whoever was trying to convince Cason and her professional cohort to fly to Sochi didn't have reporting assignments in mind. Cason emerged from her experience shaken and newly committed to relying on her agent to find her gigs.
Of course, it's easy to sit back and PHEW with the knowledge that one woman telling her first-person story is okay, that she was able to avoid being tricked or trapped into the sex trade. But for many women the world over, the story doesn't end with a sigh of relief; it continues on as a horrible nightmare. And it happens much more often than every four years.