FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 12, 2012
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Maryland Couple Sentenced to Prison Terms
For Running a Prostitution Operation Involving a Minor
-Defendants Posted Ads, Arranged “Dates” for Sex Acts-
WASHINGTON - Dominique Emanuel Bell, 22, was sentenced today to a seven-year prison term and Candice Ponder, 26, was sentenced to a four-year term in connection with the sexual exploitation of a minor in Washington, D.C., announced U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
Both defendants, of Laurel, Md., pled guilty in August 2012 to one count each of pandering, inducing or compelling a minor to engage in prostitution. They were sentenced by the Honorable Robert E. Morin in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Upon completion of their prison terms, Bell and Ponder will be placed on three years of supervised release and must register as sex offenders.
According to evidence presented at the plea hearing, on June 22, 2012 members of the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force, which includes members of the FBI and MPD, conducted a proactive child sexual exploitation investigation at a location in Northwest Washington. This operation was part of a national initiative, called Operation Cross Country VI, in which law enforcement officers contacted individuals advertised on predicated prostitution related web-sites in an effort to recover sexually exploited minors.
The task force identified a website that appeared to advertise sexual services by a very young female. They contacted the number on the ad and negotiated a price with Ponder for the minor and another female prostitute to come to the Northwest Washington location.
On Saturday June 23, 2012 at approximately 2:30 a.m., two teenagers knocked on the door to the hotel room. They were recovered and interviewed by law enforcement. The task force members learned that the teenagers, who were 16 and 19, were victims of human trafficking orchestrated by Bell and Ponder, who were known as “Stacks” and “Kandy,” respectively.
During the period of time that the teenagers were being trafficked by Bell and Ponder, they traveled with them to multiple jurisdictions throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area providing sexual services to male clients in exchange for money. The proceeds of these sexual acts would be turned over to Bell and Ponder. Bell and Ponder had provided strict instructions to the teenagers to lie to law enforcement regarding their names and ages if caught and threatened to harm them if they cooperated with law enforcement against Bell and Ponder.
The process was for Ponder to post prostitution ads on the Internet for the teenagers and arrange the “dates” with individuals who responded. Bell and Ponder would then drive the teenagers to various locations for the dates, including numerous places in the District of Columbia. Bell and Ponder would provide the teenagers with the details of the date, including the length of time it should take, and how much money to collect. They also provided them with a cell phone and condoms to use during the date. Bell and Ponder would then pick up the teenagers afterward and collect the money they had earned from the sexual acts.
Bell and Ponder would provide the teenagers with marijuana and Ecstasy pills in between dates. Bell was always present in the vehicle in case the teenagers needed protection or physical assistance during the date. Bell carried both a handgun and a semi-automatic firearm with a scope attached to use for protection or intimidation during the course of the incidents.
The teenagers reported that they had been living with Bell and Ponder at an apartment in Laurel. They also reported that Bell and Ponder referred to their prostitution enterprise as “GMB,” which stands for “Get Money Boys” and “Get Money Bitches.”
On July 16, 2012, task force members executed a search warrant at Bell and Ponder’s residence located in Laurel, where the defendants were arrested and another young woman was recovered. Task force members recovered condoms, various items with the logo “GMB,” multiple cellular telephones (including the cell phones that matched the numbers in the prostitution ads), multiple hotel keys, marijuana packaged for distribution, PCP, a semi-automatic pistol, a 12-gauge shotgun, and $1,272 in U.S. currency.
In announcing the sentences, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Director McJunkin, and Chief Lanier commended the outstanding investigative work performed by a team of MPD detectives and Special Agents and Victim Advocates from the FBI. They also praised the efforts of those who worked on the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Victim Witness Advocates Veronica Vaughan and Melissa Milam and Paralegal Joyce Arthur. Finally, they commended Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin B. Andrews, who prosecuted the case.