Federal Jury Finds Man Guilty Of Sex Trafficking Of A Minor And Conspiring To Produce Child Pornography
MINNEAPOLIS— Today in federal court, a trial jury found a 40-year-old man guilty of running a prostitution operation in the Twin Cities that used underage women. Arthur James Chappell, no known address, was convicted of two counts of sex trafficking a minor, one count of possession of child pornography, one count of conspiracy to possess child pornography, one count of conspiracy to produce child pornography, two counts of entice travel for prostitution, two counts of transportation with intent to engage in prostitution, one count of conspiracy to entice travel for prostitution, and one count of conspiracy to transport with intent to engage in prostitution. Chappell, also known as AJ and J, was indicted on April 4, 2012.
Following today’s verdict, U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones said, “Approximately 20 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, with far too many of them mere minors forced into the sex trade. The U.S. Department of Justice and this office, along with our local, state, and federal investigative partners, are committed to pursuing, apprehending, and prosecuting those who victimize these young people through prostitution and the production of child pornography. And we encourage the public to be vigilant as well. Help us rescue these young people and bring to justice those who have harmed them.”
Michael Feinberg, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations, St. Paul office, added, “The trafficking of children for sex and the production and possession of child pornography are among the most deplorable crimes our Homeland Security special agents investigate. Today's conviction is fitting for someone who’s robbed a child of their innocence and created a permanent record of victimization.”
The evidence presented at trial proved that from August of 2006 through July of 2007, Chappell ran a multi-state prostitution ring. In the summer of 2007, he recruited two girls under the age of 18 to engage in commercial sex acts as part of his business. One witness testified that Chappell had threatened and sexually assaulted her.
In addition, Chappell possessed one or more items containing visual depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, conspired with others to possess such depictions, and induced or coerced a child to engage in conduct for the purpose of producing child pornography. Chappell promoted his prostitution operation through Craigslist and Backpage websites by purchasing ad space, where nude photographs of the girls were posted in online advertisements.
In June 2007, Bloomington police conducted surveillance at the Homewood Suites, where they discovered four women in a hotel room rented to Chappell. In July of 2007, Chappell also enticed or coerced two adult females to travel in interstate commerce to engage in prostitution. Between August of 2006 and July of 2007, he conspired to persuade other women to travel in interstate commerce to engage in prostitution.
Recently, Yuri Fedotov, the head of the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime reported to those attending a U.N. General Assembly meeting that an estimated 2.4 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking at any one time, with 80 percent of them being exploited as sex slaves. He also said approximately $32 billion is earned collectively every year by the criminals who operate human trafficking networks. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked within the U.S. alone each year.
Chappell faces a potential maximum penalty of life in prison for sex trafficking a minor as well as for the conspiracy to produce child pornography count, a maximum of 20 years on each count of enticing travel for prostitution; ten years on each count of possession of child pornography as well as for the conspiracy to possess child pornography count, ten years on each count of transportation with intent to engage in prostitution, and five years for conspiracy to entice travel for prostitution and conspiracy to transport with intent to engage in prostitution. United States District Judge Joan N. Ericksen will determine Chappell’s sentence at a future hearing, not yet scheduled.
This case was the result of an investigation by the Bloomington Police Department and United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (“ICE”) Homeland Security Investigations. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David P. Steinkamp and Special Assistant United States Attorney Colin P. Johnson.