Helena, MT (STL.News) Montana Attorney General Tim Fox announced today the Montana Department of Justice (DOJ) has hired two full-time agents who will work solely on human trafficking investigations. The team, based in Billings, is employed by DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and will work on cases of suspected human trafficking statewide.
DCI Agent Andrew Yedinak was promoted to supervisor of DCI’s Computer and Internet Crime Unit, which is responsible for investigating human trafficking, internet crimes against children, and cybercrimes. DCI’s forensic computer examiners are also part of this unit.
The applicant selected for the second new human trafficking position is an agent with several years of investigative experience. Due to safety and operational integrity concerns related to the undercover duties of the position, DOJ will not release the agent’s name. Both individuals began their new jobs on September 30.
“The addition of these new positions means that for the first time, Montana has state-level law enforcement dedicated exclusively to working human trafficking cases,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “Our two new agents will work with local, Tribal, and federal law enforcement to conduct undercover operations to crack down on human trafficking throughout Montana. Additionally, our human trafficking team will coordinate closely with the Montana Highway Patrol to interdict traffickers along our roadways before they cross state lines, so we can bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice,” Fox added.
Funding for the new team was made possible by HB 749, carried by Billings Representative Daniel Zolnikov – R in the 2019 legislative session. The new legislation, which went into effect July 1, provided $519,815 to establish a two-person human trafficking enforcement team within DCI.
Fox added that his agency’s ongoing legislative advocacy and outreach efforts over the last several years to fight human trafficking have garnered national attention. “For example, Shared Hope International now gives Montana an “A” for its work in improving justice for human trafficking victims, compared to a “D” grade before I took office,” Fox said. “We’re thankful for partnerships with groups across the state for their collaborative work to educate residents about this crime; these partnerships have proven to be critically important as we collectively work toward greater public awareness of human trafficking in Big Sky Country.”