Member News|

The Sentinel Project has been awarded a $50,000 grant from USA-IT to continue its fight against human trafficking in Montana.  The Sentinel Project is a collaborative effort led by the Montana Beer and Wine Distributors Association (MBWDA) that trains and educates beer and wine distribution employees on how to look for and recognize signs of human trafficking on the road. Together with the Montana Department of Justice, the Lifeguard Group of Missoula and the Montana Association of Chiefs of Police, MBWDA launched the Sentinel Project in August 2020 to fight human trafficking in the state through those who know Montana’s roads best.

“Our industry recognized the unique position beer and wine distributors are in to aid in the fight against human trafficking,” said Debra Pitassy, executive director of the Montana Beer and Wine Distributors Association.  “The generous donation provided by USA-IT will be instrumental in our efforts to increase awareness and assist survivor service providers. These partnerships renew our hope and sense of purpose, and we are honored to be among the men and women working diligently to put a stop to human trafficking.”

The award from United to Safeguard America from Illegal Trade (USA-IT) came during its recent summit in Salt Lake City, UT—Beyond Borders: A Call to Action Against Human Trafficking.

USA-IT is a public and private-sector partnership led by Philip Morris International (PMI) and supported by more than 85 national and state brand enforcement experts, law enforcement agencies, academics, and leading business organizations dedicated to fighting illegal trade.

The summit convened some of the strongest national voices on illicit trade and human trafficking prevention to educate members on the necessity of working with public and private entities to combat this heinous crime. During the summit, PMI—in partnership with USA-IT— presented the “Champion Against Human Trafficking Award” to the Sentinel Project and awarded the group with $50,000 for general support to continue our fight in this important battle.

“For years, criminals have shamelessly skirted the criminal justice system to support large-scale operations, bringing a relentless cycle of crime into our communities and onto our interstates, including human trafficking,” said Kristin Reif, Head of State Government Affairs for Philip Morris International. “We are proud to contribute to these organizations and support their work in providing justice to the vulnerable.”

“No one government or industry can address this complex problem on its own, said USA-IT spokesperson and former acting executive associate director for Homeland Security Investigations, Alysa Erichs. “And with tens of thousands trafficked in the U.S. every year, we must continue doing more. Only by working together, can we help disband criminal organizations and safeguard our communities from illegal trade and the far-reaching web of crimes it fosters.”

For more information about the Sentinel Project, visit

For more information about USA-IT’s efforts to combat illegal trade and to get involved, visit or email us at [email protected].


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close Search Window