Yesterday's discovery of an 11th body on Gilgo State Beach in Long Island was well timed. It came exactly a year after the first corpses of sex workers were found on the beach, and also just one day before our City Council started hearings to discuss the drivers who shuttle (willing and unwilling) prostitutes around. It seems especially fitting since Shannan Gilbert, the New Jersey prostitute whose body may have been found yesterday, certainly spent a lot of time with those drivers.
"[The drivers] are more important than the pimps because they’re the ones who decide everything," a former sex worker set to speak at the City Council today told the Times recently. "I want all of them in jail, or back in their countries. I don’t want to see them working like this."
As the sex trade has moved more and more online in recent years, the role of the driver has reportedly grown increasingly important—and become increasingly similar to the role of the pimp. Often drivers simply take over for them. "They promised us a better life," the woman the Times spoke to said. "I know a lot of girls who said they left the pimp they were working with. In the end they just worked for the driver." To that end, the City Council is currently looking at two bills to keep them in check. One would raise fines for those who knowingly transport trafficking victims and the other would punish those who operate unlicensed liveries for sex workers.
Drivers were a major part of the life of Shannan Gilbert (whose mother still holding out hope the latest body is not her daughter). Gilbert met her boyfriend, Alex Diaz, when he was driving girls for the escort agency she worked for (he also once punched her so hard she needed a metal plate put in her jaw, which actually makes it easier to ID her remains) and her driver the night she went missing, Michael Pak, was one of the last people to see her alive.
After driving Gilbert to see a john named Joseph Brewer in Oak Beach, Pak waited outside until Brewer says he called the driver back in because Gilbert was supposedly acting erratic. Pak says he tried to talk her down (he told A&E that he tried to ascertain her state of mind by asking if she'd ever seen Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas) but not enough to prevent her from making a 23-minute call to 911 or to prevent her from running off, apparently to her death. Not that he seems to worked up about the whole thing, what with the police writing him off as a suspect. Reached by phone Tuesday he quite presumptively told the Star-Ledger, "Finally, closure, and the mystery is solved."