Second Defendant Pleads Guilty in Sex Trafficking Conspiracy Involving Three Minor Girls
Maryland Task Force to Show “Zero Tolerance for Child Prostitution”
Baltimore, Maryland - Lea Bell, a/k/a “Eboni,” a/k/a “Ebony,” age 29, of Reisterstown, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to 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.
“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.”
“Traffickers who prey on the emotional and physical vulnerability of young girls will be held accountable for their actions,” said Scot R. Rittenberg, Acting Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Baltimore. “As a member of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, ICE will continue to aggressively investigate human trafficking and protect our communities from the threats and vulnerabilities posed by these criminal organizations.”
According to her guilty plea and court documents, from January through April, 2009, Bell and Byron Thompson, a “pimp,” 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. Bell and Thompson 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.
Bell and Thompson 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, Bell and Thompson prostituted Jane Doe 3, providing and advertising Jane Doe 3 dozens of times for sexual services in Maryland. Bell and Thompson 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, Bell and Thompson directed dozens of customers to Jane Doe 3.
Bell and Thompson kept all of the money paid by the sex customers.
In the early morning hours of March 6, 2009, Bell and Thompson 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 Bell and Thompson continued to attempt to contact Jane Doe 3 through April 2009.
On April 20, 2009, Bell and Thompson created a Craigslist posting advertising sexual services and containing a photograph of Jane Doe 3. On May 17, 2009, Bell and Thompson created a Backpage posting advertising a “2-girl special” and containing photographs of Jane Doe 3 and a photograph of Jane Doe 1. Bell and Thompson were subsequently located and arrested.
Bell faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, although the parties have agreed that 10 years in prison is the appropriate disposition of this case. U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett has scheduled sentencing for October 16, 2009 at 11:00 a.m.
Byron Thompson, a/k/a “B,” age 25, of Reisterstown, Maryland, pleaded guilty on July 16, 2009 to the conspiracy and three counts of sex trafficking of a minor. Judge Bennett has scheduled Thompson’s sentencing for October 1, 2009 at 4:00 p.m.
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 are prosecuting the case.