Aussie sex trafficking victim’s nightmare experience with ‘violent pimp’ she later helped take down

Kay Lang had just moved to the Gold Coast in 2012 to study when she met a charismatic entrepreneur at a nightclub and was instantly swept off her feet.

Damion St Patrick Baston introduced himself as a 30-year-old American restaurateur who had grand plans to expand his business interests in Australia.

Ms Lang, 24, had worked for a major hospitality group for a few years and was part-way through her business degree, so their interests overlapped perfectly.

“He showed me his business plans and it looked like a legitimate opportunity,” she recalled. “He wanted me to help him with it, to work with him, and it seemed really exciting.”

It wasn’t long until she began to discover the truth about Baston – that he was an international sex trafficker, wanted by police in the United States for a long list of horrific crimes.

From dream man to nightmare

After meeting at the nightclub, Ms Lang gave Baston her number so they could meet up to talk more about the job opportunity.

“Over the next few days, he was constantly messaging me and I wanted to put the brakes on things because he was so intense,” she said.

“But he was charming and very smooth, so I agreed to catch up with him for a coffee.”

They began dating and Ms Lang got busy fleshing out his business plans, which is when she discovered scores of photographs of naked women on his computer.

While working out of his Gold Coast penthouse, she also stumbled across a marriage certificate – he’d never mentioned being married – and a gun.

“I was like, this isn’t going to work. There are so many red flags. But when I confronted him to break it off, he assaulted me.”

After brutally bashing her, Baston claimed he was a member of a major criminal gang in America, revealed he was on the run, threatened to kill her, and even showed her a photograph of her grandmother’s house, vowing to murder her too.

“He wore me down. He terrified me. I felt like I was trapped.”

He forced Ms Lang to move in with him and cut off ties with her family, before making her drop out of university and quit her volunteer role as a Lifeline telephone counsellor.

And then, she learnt the truth about Baston’s business – an illegal prostitution ring that she was forced to become part of.

“I didn’t want to do it,” she said. “I thought he was going to kill me and so I felt stuck, like I had no choice.”

She and several other women were made to work seven days a week, bringing in up to $3000 a night each.

All of the money went to Baston to fund his lavish lifestyle of luxury cars, high-end properties, designer clothes and diamond-encrusted watches.

Bizarrely, he made the women call him Drac – short for Dracula – and enjoyed wearing yellow contact lenses and gold vampire fangs.

He kept a copy of the book Pimpology on his bedside table, which contains dozens of ‘laws’ of control.

“Weakness is the best trait a person can find in someone they want to control,” one chapter reads.

“If you can’t find a weakness, you have to create one … while you want them to feel good about themselves eventually, you want them to feel that it’s because of you.

“They begin to see you as their champion, their hero – even if the weakness you rescue them from is one you created.”

Ms Lang said he used the book to learn how to “break people and get them to do what he wanted”.

“That’s how all these women found themselves stuck in this situation. They were broken down. They had no choice but to comply.”

A long list of victims

Authorities say Baston trafficked at least seven women from Australia, New Zealand, the US and Eastern Europe across the globe over a four-year period.

“Baston is a violent pimp who has trafficked women across several continents, including in the southern district of Florida, Australia, and Dubai,” American prosecutor Roy Altman said.

“Not only has Baston employed an egregious and sadistic pattern of force and violence to manipulate and coerce multiple women into lives of prostitution, but he has done so repeatedly and continuously over the course of the last several years and across several continents.

“In addition to committing violence against these women, Baston has often threatened to harm or kill them or family members — many of whom he has met — if the women ever left or betrayed him.”

One victim, a 21-year-old Lithuanian national, managed to escape and went to the police in Sydney, telling them how Baston had forced her into a scalding hot shower, hung her by her ankles in a fire escape, and relentlessly bashed her.

A detective who interviewed her later remarked that she was “the most terrified victim” she had ever encountered in her 25-year policing career.

Another victim was 18 when she met him at a party and it wasn’t long until she was abused and coerced into becoming a sex worker.

A year later, she was convinced to marry Baston in a small service at a Sydney mosque.

Not long after that, he sent the woman to Perth to engage in sex work, and on her return tied her to a chair, bashed her and raped her, after he flew into a rage because she hadn’t made as much money as he anticipated.

He threatened to kill her and hide her body so no-one would ever find her. She managed to flee and went into hiding.

Worried he would become the focus of police inquiries, Baston decided to leave Australia and took Ms Lang with him to Dubai and then later Miami.

She was made to work in strip clubs and engage in sex work, but Baston, perhaps sensing he was losing control, promised she could soon go back to working on the restaurant business plans.

“At this point, I’m like, I don’t give a s*** about your restaurants and I do not want to be with you. I mean, I told him to his face that I didn’t want to be near him. He told me I was a stupid, a whore, and that he’d saved me from my s***ty life in Australia.

“I remember thinking, is this going to be my life? How can I just ride this thing out? When will it end? I was scared if I went to the police, he’d manage to dodge them and he’d kill me or my family.”

Making her escape

Eventually, Ms Lang managed to convince Baston that she needed to return to Australia to renew her US visa, and he reluctantly agreed.

A concerned family member had called the US Consulate, who summoned her to a meeting with an Australian Federal Police officer and an agent from the Diplomatic Security Service were waiting.

“I was so scared. They told me he’d been on the run for a long time. He had been deported from the US but snuck back in on a fake passport. He had kidnapped and trafficked all these girls.

“One of them asked me: ‘How many times has he abused you?’ I just broke down. I was distraught. They told me all the horrible things he had done to other women and how dangerous he was.

“I feel like I’m lucky to be alive. He did this to a lot of women.”

Ms Lang agreed to help US authorities bring Baston to justice. She and five other women worked with the State Department, resulting in him being arrested in 2013.

US Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer described Baston as “a violent sadist”.

Mr Ferrer revealed the Jamaican national had actually been deported from the US in the late 1990s but had stolen someone’s identity in order to obtain an American passport.

It’s believed he started pimping victims in 2009 and had raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars. Despite telling Ms Lang he was 30, he was actually seven years older.

Baston was charged with 21 offences, including human trafficking, sex trafficking through means of force, money laundering, fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

“His victims would meet him at bars, restaurants or parties and a relationship would blossom,” the Diplomatic Security Service, which has the largest global footprint of any law enforcement agency, said of the case.

“Baston has been painted as a charismatic, imposing manipulator who showered women with expensive gifts and told them he loved them to lure them into his world.

“But Baston would use violence to force the women into prostitution. The women he manipulated saw no way to escape the situation.”

Six months later, two AFP officers accompanied her to Miami to testify at his two-week trial.

“I wanted to do the right thing, no matter how hard it was. I couldn’t live with myself for not doing that. I just had to build up the courage to face him.”

In July 2014, a jury took just six hours to deliberate, finding Baston guilty on all counts. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release.

It was the first time a new extraterritorial jurisdiction provision of anti-trafficking laws had been used, allowing the prosecution to charge him with crimes committed abroad.

Baston unsuccessfully appealed the sentence and remains behind bars.

Long road to recovery

After returning to Australia at the end of the trial, Ms Lang began the long and arduous task of rebuilding her life.

“It was challenging after that and it took me a while to process everything,” she said.

Part of the process of reclaiming her power came with starting her own business – a luxury lingerie brand called Vixen and Fox.

After launching last August with a wholesale strategy, Ms Lang’s designs are now stocked in boutiques both here in Australia and internationally, including in Paris.

“I wanted a product for me to connect with my sexuality again in a positive way. I also wanted a vehicle to share my story with other women and it’s probably one of the most feminine products you can get.

“We’ve had a lot of return customers, which is fantastic. The Paris boutiques are absolutely loving it. The feedback is that we have a really distinct look that can’t be compared to other brands, which is what we were going for.”

Each collection takes 12 months to design and produce, and the items are all manufactured in Europe.

Ms Lang, now 36, said she was initially reluctant to be open about her past, but realised the power of storytelling in inspiring women and encouraging victim-survivors of violence to feel supported.

“I think I was worried ego-wise, like, I’m going to look like an idiot. I worried people would judge me and ask why I didn’t just go to the police straight away.

“But I decided that it’s important for my own healing to be open, and to inspire other women.”

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