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Trafficking Survivor Speaks Out: Jose Alfaro’s Story


Jose Alfaro was only 16 when he was kicked out of the house where he and his three sisters were raised in a small, conservative Texas town. Jose says his father could not accept that his son was gay and ordered him to leave. With nowhere to go, the desperate teenager turned to the internet, searching for someone who would help him. 

On a social networking site, Jose met a man who seemed nice, Jason Daniel Gandy, who said he was a wealthy entrepreneur with a nine-bedroom mansion in Austin, Texas. He had plenty of room, he said, and Jose jumped at his offer to stay in his home. But Gandy, in his early 30s, was really a child sex trafficker, and he’d just found his next victim.

Jose felt like Gandy really cared about him, understood what he had gone through, and accepted him for who he was. That felt so good, and frankly unfamiliar, since his own parents rejected him. Jose was also dazzled by the lavish lifestyle Gandy said he could offer him.

After gaining the teenager’s trust, it wasn’t long before Gandy began manipulating him to perform sex acts with child predators, posing as clients, through his massage business, just as he did with other teenage boys. Boys with no one looking for them. Invisible boys.

For a long time, Jose had no idea that Gandy was a child predator. Nor did he think of himself as a missing child. Although he was under the age of 18 and was not living with a legal guardian, his parents never reported him missing. 

“That’s a very common experience with trafficking survivors,” Jose, now 32, said in an interview with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). “I didn’t realize I was trafficked. When something harmful is done to you, you blame yourself. It’s a life of being silenced, numbing yourself with alcohol and drugs. Many children who’ve been kicked out of their homes are out there roaming the streets aimlessly, looking for ways to survive.”

Not being reported missing also means that no one was actively looking for Jose, except for predators like Gandy. The systems put in place to locate and recover missing children or provide services and resources are often initiated by a missing child report. When that doesn’t happen, the safety nets fall apart.

Like Jose, many children who are trafficked, boys and girls, were never reported missing. Some ran away from home or state care; others were kicked out. During the FBI’s recent Operation Cross County (OCC), 118 children were recovered, 59 survivors of child sex trafficking. Seven were males. 

Speaking about OCC, NCMEC President and CEO Michelle DeLaune said, “Behind every statistic, there is a person with dreams, aspirations, and the right to live a life free from child sex trafficking and exploitation. As a society we must work together to ensure the protection, support, and empowerment of those impacted by this heinous crime.”

Jose said that many people erroneously believe males are the perpetrators and females are the victims. But males are also trafficking victims, yet they rarely tell anyone because of the stigma. 

This fear of not being believed, or even worse, considered a perpetrator, partially accounts for the low number of male survivors of child sex trafficking reported or identified.

It’s rare for a male trafficking survivor to speak out so publicly. Despite some brutal backlash on social media, Jose says it’s worth it if it helps other young men and boys avoid the trauma he still experiences from the emotional, physical and sexual abuse. He hears from men of all ages who’ve been living in silence, thanking him for his courage to speak out. That means everything to Jose.

alfaro speaks at a podium

Jose says he wants to give a voice to young boys being sold for sex. (Photo courtesy of Jose Alfaro.)

“Jose’s bravery in speaking out is changing the conversation in the anti-trafficking field,” said Melissa Snow, executive director of NCMEC’s sex trafficking programs. “For far too long the narrative focused on female survivors and by doing so we inadvertently only equipped law enforcement, child welfare, schools, and the public with the tools to identify and respond to one type of victim. Jose’s story not only exposes the reality of boys being trafficked, it also allows us to see it and believe it when it’s happening.”

After he was ordered out of his family’s home and tried to make it on his own, Jose said there were many red flags along the way that something wasn’t right, but no one saw them – or they ignored them. When police were called for a noise complaint one time, they never questioned why Jose was there, an underage Hispanic teenager with an unrelated, much older white male, or asked if he was okay.

“No one asked, why are you here?” said Jose. “Why are you in a completely different city than your parents? If someone had looked at my situation, they would have seen me and all the red flags and could have made me aware of any available resources. I would have chosen that path rather than looking for someone on the internet who could help me.” 

gandy mugshot

Joseph Daniel Gandy preyed on vulnerable boys like Jose.

Gandy’s home was hardly the mansion he portrayed. It was small, filthy, and partitioned with sheets. From age 16 to 17, he sold Jose for sex acts to his massage clients. Jose relented because he felt he owed Gandy for taking him in. Over time, however, the massage sessions escalated. He knew he had to get out of there. 

After fleeing Gandy’s home, Jose had few options. He knew he couldn’t go home so he relied on what predators had taught him – that there was a demand for commercial sex.

He began working as a male escort and was flown around the country by rich men who paid him to travel and live with them. Meanwhile, Gandy was still operating his trafficking business – until, finally, someone spotted a red flag. Gandy had flown to the U.K. for the 2012 London Olympics with a 15-year-old boy, hoping to sell him for sex. U.K. immigration officers thought something was amiss – a young boy with an unrelated 35-year-old man? Their stories didn’t match up, so they sent them back to the U.S. on separate planes. 

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) detained Gandy and launched an investigation. Jose didn’t know Gandy was in jail until two years later when someone showed him a news article. That was when Jose realized for the first time that he had been a sex trafficking victim. Fearing he, too, would go to jail, he kept quiet, just as Gandy had always warned him to do.

“When I heard news of Gandy’s arrest, I told my friends not to tell anyone,” he said. “That’s what predators do. They silence you and make you feel trapped.”

After thinking hard about it, though, Jose called the National Human Trafficking Hotline and his story tumbled out. He was assured he would not get in trouble and was put in contact with HSI officials. Jose had doubts about cooperating, but he wanted to hold Gandy accountable for preying on his desperation. He would testify against him. Given the option to withhold his name, Jose said no. He had nothing to hide.

It didn’t happen quickly. In 2018, six years after his arrest, Gandy finally went to trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

alfaro, smiling, poses for a selfie

“I looked so young, vulnerable,” Jose said of a photo shown in court of Jose in Gandy’s home. (Photo courtesy of Jose Alfaro.)

Prosecutors were able to build a strong sex trafficking case against Gandy as more evidence was developed. Four males, including Jose, would testify. When he took the witness stand he felt confident, but became emotional when a selfie he had taken in Gandy’s home flashed up on the big screen. He looked so young, so vulnerable.

After a three-day trial, Gandy was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison on trafficking and other charges, followed by a lifetime of supervised release. He was required to register as a sex offender and pay restitution. 

Jose is now a full-time advocate for trafficking survivors and is on the board of the Human Trafficking Legal Center. He works with organizations, including NCMEC, to help raise awareness about a misunderstood, hidden crime.

alfaro, now 32, wearing light blue blazer

Said Jose: “I won’t be silent.” (Photo courtesy of Jose Alfaro.)

“Accepting and supporting LGBTQ⁺ and two-spirit youth is trafficking prevention,” Snow said. “If we want to keep kids safe, we have to accept and love who they are, otherwise we create the vulnerability that predators are far too skilled at identifying and exploiting.”

Jose has no regrets about testifying against Gandy, but it reopened old wounds, revealing the full depth of his trauma. Even now, Jose said he has both good and bad days. Working out helps, as does using his experience to show others that, yes, boys are also trafficked for sex. 

“There are days where I’m great and feel confident,” Jose said. “And there are days when I feel so small, so invisible. But I’ve learned the tools when I hit my lows. I won’t be silent.”

To learn more about what child sex trafficking really looks like, go here: