WASHINGTON- A federal jury in Memphis, Tenn., has convicted Maurice Mabon of child sex trafficking and a firearms offense, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton III for the Western District of Tennessee and Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford of the FBI’s Memphis Field Office.
Mabon, 23, of Memphis, was found guilty yesterday of child sex trafficking, attempted child sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit child sex trafficking for his role in advertising a 15-year-old girl for prostitution on the website backpage.com on April 16, 2011. He also was found guilty of being a felon in possession of ammunition.
The evidence at trial showed, among other things, that Mabon posted the advertisement to backpage.com after taking numerous photographs of the 15-year-old victim in lingerie. Mabon and his co-defendants then drove the 15-year-old to an address provided by an individual responding to the advertisement. A suspicious neighbor contacted the Shelby County, Tenn., Sheriff’s Department and deputies intervened.
A later search of Mabon’s home led to the discovery of 12 live rounds of 9 mm Luger ammunition, 17 live rounds of 7.65 ammunition, 25 live rounds of .380 ammunition, 20 live rounds of .45 auto ammunition and eight spent rounds of 7.62 ammunition. As a previously-convicted felon, Mabon was prohibited from possessing any ammunition by federal law.
“Mr. Mabon used the Internet to facilitate sex trafficking of a minor,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “The jury’s guilty verdict ensures that he will now be imprisoned for his crimes. We will continue to prioritize the fight against predators who exploit children for profit or any other reason.”
“Child sex traffickers like Maurice Mabon prey upon young victims because they are vulnerable and often defenseless,” said U.S. Attorney Stanton. “The jury’s guilty verdict underscores this office’s relentless commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to prosecute and bring to justice those who exploit children for profit.”
“The cruel exploitation of children will not be tolerated, and the FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, is committed to targeting those who prey on innocent juveniles,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Ford. “This conviction is a message to those who would seek to take part in human trafficking or commercial sex trafficking, that you will be investigated brought to justice and held accountable.
Mabon faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. He will be sentenced on July 13, 2012, by Chief U.S. District Judge Jon Phipps McCalla. Mabon’s co-defendants, Arieke Lester and Chauntta Lewis, pleaded guilty to related charges last week. Lester will be sentenced on Aug. 10, 2012, and faces up to life in prison. Lewis will be sentenced on June 6, 2012, and faces up to 20 years in prison.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
The case was investigated by the FBI, working with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Skrmetti of the Western District of Tennessee and CEOS Trial Attorney Keith Becker.