Sex Trafficking Survivor Shares Haunting Story of Exploitation

ADVISORY: The following post shares information from Jose Alfaro in an exclusive interview with Instinct. The subject matter and details could be sensitive to some readers.

At the age of 16, Jose Alfaro escaped months of sex trafficking in the state of Texas. At the time, the young man was homeless, with no support system, and seeking comfort from someone who would believe in him. What began as a casual conversation online with pedophile Jason Gandy turned into a living nightmare from which Alfaro could not bring himself to wake up–until things got too scary and too deep.

But how Alfaro got into this situation is just as important to the story. When he was 15, Alfaro’s parents discovered he was gay. Being raised in a very traditional and religious household in Navasota, Texas, Alfaro was met with an ultimatum to go to conversion therapy or get out.

Jose Alfaro said:

It’s hard for me to talk about my parents, but I can say that we do have somewhat of a relationship. I feel my parents have tremendous amount of guilt for what happened to me and don’t like facing it. I think when they see me it hurts them to see me. My parents are good people and mean well and I forgave them years ago. I know that what happened to me wasn’t their fault. Parents aren’t given a pamphlet that tells you what to do when your child comes out to you. I do believe my parents thought conversion therapy was a good thing since the church recommended it. I know that if my parents knew at the time what I was going through they would’ve done anything to save me. They still struggle with my sexuality so it is something we don’t discuss.

Alfaro, who convinced his parents to send him away to school in San Antonio, soon encountered a life where he was able to openly explore his sexuality as he began a relationship with a 36-year-old teacher. When he returned home at 16, his parents found out that the move had not been helpful for their son and that he would have to go to conversion therapy. Instead, Alfaro left his home to stay with a friend where soon his time ran out as well. In desperation, the young Alfaro took to a site called gay.com to try to connect with other gay men in the area and looking for new support systems. That is when he met Jason Gandy, a late 20-something millionaire entrepreneur who shared with Alfaro that his inherited fortune and his business as a massage therapist helped him sustain his independent lifestyle. For a teenager who was coming from a place of virtually nothing, Gandy was a godsend—someone who saw him for who he was and who genuinely wanted to help him—even though they didn’t know each other.

Jason Gandy’s massage website | Courtesy Jose Alfaro

Alfaro said:

Jason showed me a ton of empathy. He told me he had friends who had gone through similar situations with their parents and he felt really bad for me and really wanted to help. He offered me a place to stay and told me that he owned a 10-bedroom home in Austin, Texas which ended up being a lie.

That’s when Gandy drove from Houston to Navasota, picked up Alfaro and his few belongings, and changed his life forever.

Since the beginning Alfaro admired Gandy’s sense of independence, but it seemed that it came with a price as he soon learned. Gandy quickly put Alfaro on a very rigid schedule that involved a Raisin Bran breakfast every morning, hours training at the gym, stealing protein bars for lunch from the grocery store, and very lean and healthy dinners. Little did Alfaro realize that Gandy was trying to keep him fit and tight for what would soon be Alfaro’s job of providing sexual massages to Gandy’s client base. Alfaro and Gandy were also consistently intimate during the exploitation, a relationship that Alfaro asserts was purely physical and had no emotional connections.

Image of Jose Alfaro at age 16 used for Craigslist ad | Courtesy Jose Alfaro

Gandy began to sell Alfaro the idea of being self-sufficient by learning his trade of giving massages. He assured Alfaro that he would take him under his wing and show him everything he needed to know about giving 4-hand massages. The only thing he asked him was that, if asked, he would say that he was over the age of 18. After some hands-on training, Gandy took shirtless photos of the underage boy and uploaded them to Craigslist under the M4M category. Alfaro recalls Gandy carefully reviewing responses to his ads for massages. In retrospect, he knows he was filtering for law enforcement who might have their operation on their radar.

Image of Jason Gandy used for an ad

Alfaro shared the frightening story of giving his first massage. He and Gandy entered a room with a naked middle-aged, married white man and Gandy urged him to join him in taking off all his clothes. This was the first experience Alfaro had that led to three months of turmoil performing anywhere from one to five massages per day, some becoming extremely sexually involved.

Alfaro shared:

I knew something was wrong after the first massage, but I continued the massages with fear that if I said that I didn’t want to do them anymore someone would harm me or Jason wouldn’t help me anymore. I also began to realize that things were really terrible when I noticed his infatuation with even younger boys and also finding the child pornography on his laptop. I couldn’t handle Jason harming other people but for some reason when it came to myself I felt at times it was my only option and I needed to survive.

Alfaro eventually stopped receiving money from Gandy who said he was generating a savings account for him so that when he was ready to be on his way he would have a good foundation to get started. But obviously everything was a lie. Gandy wasn’t saving the money for him and that wasn’t all. Gandy had lied to Alfaro about owning a ten-bedroom house in Austin. That house ended up being a four-bedroom home that Gandy had divided into different sections with bedsheets—renting rooms to college students. The pair stayed there when on ‘business’ in Austin.

Jason Gandy’s house in Austin | Courtesy Jose Alfaro

The last moments of terror for Alfaro came when Gandy allowed him to be raped by a client who offered more money and asked to be left alone with him. This was the worst experience thus far; Alfaro knew he was in too deep into this world he needed to escape. Each day Alfaro lived in fear that Gandy or the clients would do something to him if he tried to escape. He was never tied up or locked in a room, but what Gandy did was mentally imprison him into a life where he felt that he had no other options and where his vulnerability as a minor became why he was targeted.

One day soon after this traumatizing encounter with a client, Alfaro told Gandy he was too ill to go to one of their regular gym sessions. Gandy allowed him to stay home and rest. This is when Alfaro acted quickly in looking through everything Gandy had looking for a sign that he needed to escape. Upon inspecting Gandy’s laptop, Alfaro found thousands of child pornography files that urged him to gather his things, pick up the phone, and call the only person he could think of.

Alfaro shared:

After finding the child pornography, being raped, and noticing his infatuation with younger boys, I decided it was time to plan my escape. I called my ex, a 36-year-old second grade teacher and ex-marine and asked him to pick me up because I had no one else to turn to. He always feared that I was going to tell law enforcement about our relationship so he would do anything I asked of him until I turned eighteen.

Jose Alfaro shortly after fleeing Jason Gandy’s home | Courtesy Jose Alfaro

That was the last time Alfaro saw Gandy, but the aftermath of trauma associated with being used for sex work created chaos in Alfaro’s life that he still struggles with today. After turning 18, Alfaro continued to provide massages for clients, selling his body for money. He soon turned to web camming and eventually became an escort through an online service. This fast life of darkness led to heavy alcohol and drug use and his life was spiraling out of control. It wasn’t until he met a man in Boston who sympathized with his innocence that he was able to quit his life of vice and finish a cosmetology program. This ‘sugar daddy’, as Alfaro called him, helped him get his life back on track.

In 2014, after having lived with his current boyfriend in Boston for several years, Alfaro received a visit from a friend from Texas. During this visit, Alfaro became aware that Jason Gandy had been arrested in 2012 in London while he was trying to enter the country with a 15-year-old boy whom he planned to make work giving massages during the Olympics. Authorities questioned Gandy because he and the boy were not related. Upon inspection, Gandy was also discovered to be in possession of child pornography according to NBC. Hearing of the news of Gandy’s arrest two years prior urged Alfaro to contact authorities and share his story. He quickly became a witness and a victim of the crimes.

Alfaro said:

I began getting phone calls from several attorneys asking if I had someone representing me for a civil suit. They told me they could help me and they believed I have a case against Gandy and could sue him for damages. I was told this was pro bono and went with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid…after years of preparing paperwork and conversations with lawyers we all began to lose hope and I was told that the firm I was with wanted to find a firm that specialized in human trafficking, but that it didn’t look like anyone wanted to take my case pro bono. I was then told that the statute of limitation was approaching. A month later Fish and Richardson picked up the case.  We then had the criminal trial in July 2018, sentencing in December of 2018 and which helped my civil suit.

In December 2018, Jason Gandy was convicted of four counts of sex trafficking of minors, one count each of transporting a minor, and transporting child pornography, and sexual exploitation of a child, according to Chron. Jose Alfaro, along with three other victims, all testified against Gandy in July 2018 during a three-day trial. This was the first time Alfaro had seen Gandy in over ten years and in those moments Alfaro shared that he was still afraid of Gandy and could feel his power over him. The court sentenced 41-year-old Jason Gandy to 30 years in prison without the possibility for parole. Following Gandy’s 30 years in prison, he will remain under supervision for the rest of his life with restricted access to children and the internet. He will also be registered as a sex offender.

Jason Gandy arrest photo

During the trial, Gandy’s attorney argued:

The prosecution claims Mr. Gandy sexually exploited young men for profit. That never happened. This is a case about the effects of money, power and jealousy among a group of men who once turned to Mr. Gandy for consensual companionship and financial resources. And this is also a sobering story of overreach by federal prosecutors looking for victims who don’t exist.

This verdict against Gandy was a great sigh of relief for the victims who endured his manipulation. For Alfaro, it meant closure on a chapter of his life that had taken him down a dark path from which he had managed to escape. In April 2019, the attorneys at Fish & Richardson informed Alfaro that the U.S. District Court had awarded Alfaro $1,436,409 in compensatory and punitive damages, according to PR Newswire. This amount is almost three times as much as the attorneys had sued for and is almost unheard of for this type of case. If you consider that this case took place in a conservative state and involved a gay Latino male, this ruling is shocking, but will serve as some kind of restitution for Alfaro.

Jose Alfaro today | Courtesy Jose Alfaro

Although it is now over twelve years since Alfaro was under Gandy’s influence, Alfaro has days where depression is so strong he cannot even get out of bed. The residual anxiety from the trauma he is left with is something Alfaro is working through now that he is 28-years-old and living with his partner in Boston.

Alfaro is now working on a memoir that retells his story in full detail and has made it his mission to share this cautionary tale with everyone who will listen.

Alfaro ended with these words:

This is something that happens every day in our own community and it is too often that we look the other way and do nothing about it. I feel we need to better educate our youth, especially teaching them what to do when they are abandoned by family members. There are tons of resources out there that can help and keep our youth from falling into situations like I did. I also want people to recognize that it is very common for young males to be trafficked, just as common as females. There are many men in our community who have been through the same, if not worse, situation and I hope sharing my story will help them come forward to share theirs. This will help spread awareness. Our youth is our future and if we don’t do something about it and stand up for what is right we will continue to perpetuate the idea that we as a community are and will always be second class citizens.

NOTE: Alfaro’s responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Jose Alfaro today | Courtesy Jose Alfaro

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, contact that National Human Trafficking Hotline 24/7:

Call: 1-888-373-7888

TTY: 711

Text: 233733

Live Chat

END NOTE: Last year, Craigslist shut down its personal ads because of Congress Bill H.R. 1865, a combination of Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). The bill makes it so websites are liable for any misuse of their site by their users and as of January 2019, it is illegal to advertise prostitution or sex work.

Sources: NBC, Chron, PR Newswire, National Human Trafficking Hotline

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