FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
AUSA VICKIE E. LEDUC or
MARCIA MURPHY at 410-209-4885
November 12, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TWO SENTENCED TO 10 YEARS EACH IN SEX TRAFFICKING CONSPIRACY INVOLVING THREE MINOR GIRLS
Maryland Task Force to Show “Zero Tolerance for Child Prostitution”
Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced Byron Thompson, a/k/a “B,” age 25, and Lea Bell, a/k/a “Eboni,” a/k/a “Ebony,” age 29, both of Reisterstown, Maryland, today to 10 years in prison each, followed by 25 years of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor and three counts of sex trafficking of a minor, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. Judge Bennett also ordered that upon their release from prison both defendants must register as sex offenders in any place they reside, work or go to school.
“Maryland’s human trafficking task force is committed to a policy of zero tolerance for child prostitution,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Anyone who pays for or profits from sex with children should be on notice that law enforcement agents and prosecutors are standing by to send them to federal prison.”
“Protecting our communities from the threats posed by those engaged in human trafficking is a top priority for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),” said William Winter, Special Agent in Charge for ICE in Baltimore. “As a member of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, ICE will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute human trafficking as well as rescue and protect the victims of trafficking, so we can put an end to this reprehensible form of modern day slavery.”
According to their guilty pleas and court documents, from January through April, 2009, Byron Thompson, a “pimp,” and Bell jointly ran a prostitution business, recruiting minors to engage in commercial sex acts. Thompson controlled the business and Bell, a “bottom,” assisted by collecting proceeds directly from sex customers, training the sex workers that Thompson recruited and exerting control over the sex workers in Thompson’s absence. Thompson and Bell rented over 100 combined hotel rooms in Maryland, New York and Washington, D.C. and recruited sex workers through friends, clubs, bars and the internet. They posted more than 100 erotic and personal ads on the internet in order to draw sex customers.
Thompson and Bell obtained “Jane Doe 1” and “Jane Doe 2,” each 15 years old, and “Jane Doe 3,” 17 years old (“the minors”) for commercial sex acts, knowing that they were not 18 years old. From January to February 2009, Thompson and Bell prostituted Jane Doe 3, providing and advertising Jane Doe 3 dozens of times for sexual services in Maryland. Thompson and Bell transported Jane Doe 3 to hotels, private residences, and required Jane Doe 3 to ‘walk’ truck stops and Baltimore City streets known for prostitution. In that time, Thompson and Bell directed dozens of customers to Jane Doe 3.
Thompson and Bell kept all of the money paid by the sex customers.
In the early morning hours of March 6, 2009, Thompson and Bell drove the minors to a Maryland truck stop and directed them to walk the area for additional sex customers. The minors were almost immediately retrieved by law enforcement, but Thompson and Bell continued to attempt to contact Jane Doe 3 through April 2009.
On April 20, 2009, Thompson and Bell created a Craigslist posting advertising sexual services and containing a photograph of Jane Doe 3. On May 17, 2009, Thompson and Bell created a Backpage posting advertising a “2-girl special” and containing photographs of Jane Doe 3 and a photograph of Jane Doe 1. Thompson and Bell were subsequently located and arrested.
The case was investigated by the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force formed in 2007 to discover and rescue victims of human trafficking while identifying and prosecuting offenders. Members include federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as victim service providers and local community members. For more information about the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, please visit http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/md/Human-Trafficking/index.html.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Baltimore County Police Department for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Solette A. Magnelli and Judson T. Mihok, who prosecuted the case.