Missouri Man Pleads Guilty In Rhode Island To Federal Sex Trafficking Charges
PROVIDENCE, R.I. –Stephen Ardrey, 30, of Springfield, Mo., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Providence, R.I., today to transporting a 17-year old female from the Boston area into Rhode Island with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. Ardrey was arrested on September 12, 2013, when he was located walking with the victim along a Coventry, R.I., highway three days after the victim had been reported missing from her Medfield, Mass., home.
Ardrey, who pleaded guilty to one count each of trafficking a person under the age of 18 and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, faces a sentence of between 10 years to life in federal prison when he is sentenced on May 15, 2014.
Ardrey’s guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha; Bruce M. Foucart, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations for New England; West Greenwich, R.I., Police Chief Richard N. Ramsay; Coventry, R.I., Police Chief Bryan J. Volpe; Warwick, R.I., Police Chief Colonel Stephen M. McCartney; and Medfield, Mass., Police Chief Robert E. Meaney, Jr.
According to information presented to the court, the victim met Stephen Ardrey in December 2012 in an online chat room. In January 2013, Ardrey told the victim that he had girls who worked for him as escorts. Over time communications between the victim and Ardrey via email and an online service called “TextNow” intensified in frequency, and became sexual in nature and explicitly. As the communications continued, Ardrey discussed selling the victim in order to make money so they could “go away” together.
According to the government’s evidence presented to the court, on September 9, 2013, the victim met Stephen Ardrey at the public library in Medfield, Mass. Video surveillance at the library showed the victim leaving with Ardrey late that afternoon. The victim was reported missing by her parents later that evening. After leaving the library, the victim and Ardrey traveled to Boston where Ardrey picked up money that had been wired to him by an associate in Missouri, who had worked as an escort for Ardrey in the past. The victim and Ardrey then traveled to Providence by train and then to a West Greenwich motel where a room had been reserved by Ardrey’s associate in Missouri.
According to the government’s evidence, beginning on September 10, 2013, Ardrey posted an advertisement on backpage.com as well as on other websites that displayed provocative photographs of the victim with an advertising banner which read “Sweet girl next door -19.” The text of the advertisement read: “Hey everyone! I’m the new girl in town. I am your sweet cute girl next door. So come see me. Older gentlemen only. 45 years of age and older.”
The investigation revealed that while the victim was in the motel room in West Greenwich, Ardrey had sexual contact with her on several occasions. According to the victim, Ardrey gave her “pointers” and “instructions” on different sex acts so that she could better respond when she worked as an escort. At least one person responded to the Internet ad and negotiated a price with Ardrey of $40 and two packages of cigarettes for an hour with the victim. The person visited with the victim on two occasions. During the second encounter, Ardrey remained outside the door until after the individual left, at which time he collected the payment from the victim.
On September 13, 2013, at about 6:30 a.m., the Coventry Police Department received a call from a local resident who observed a male and a female who fit the description of the reported missing girl from Medfield, Mass., walking along Rte.3 in Coventry. A responding officer recognized the young woman as being the missing person from Medfield, Mass. Ardrey provided the officer a Missouri identification card. The victim, who was nor carrying any identification, initially identified herself as “Rose,” the same name used in the backpage.com advertisement. According to the Coventry police officer, Ardrey instructed the victim to give her true name to the officer, which she did. Ardrey admitted to the officer that the victim was the same girl whose picture had been shown on television and who had been reported missing.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adi Goldstein. The matter is being heard by U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr.
The matter was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, West Greenwich, Coventry and Warwick, R.I., Police Departments, and the Medfield, Mass., Police Department, with the assistance of the Boston Police Department.
Stephen Ardrey has been detained in federal custody since his arrest by Coventry police.
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