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NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


MATT J. WHITWORTH


Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html


MARCH 10, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


HUMAN TRAFFICKING RESCUE PROJECT


OPERATION GUARDIAN ANGEL


NAVAL RECRUITER AMONG FOUR MEN INDICTED

FOR SEX TRAFFICKING OF A CHILD


UNDERCOVER STING LEADS TO FIRST-EVER

HUMAN TRAFFICKING CHARGES FOR

ATTEMPTING TO PAY FOR SEX WITH CHILDREN


            KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Matt J. Whitworth, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that four men – including an active duty Naval recruiter, an insurance manager at a Plaza-area office, an out-of-state car dealership’s finance manager and a truck driver – were indicted by a federal grand jury today, in four separate cases, on charges related to the sex trafficking of children.


            Today’s indictments are the result of Operation Guardian Angel, a unique undercover law enforcement investigation targeting the demand for child prostitutes in the Kansas City area. As a result of this investigation, a total of seven defendants have been charged within the past month in the nation’s first-ever federal prosecution of the alleged customers of child prostitution under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.


            “Operation Guardian Angel was launched in response to the black market that exists in our community for child prostitution,” said Whitworth. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to combating child sex trafficking by investigating and prosecuting the customers who create the demand for child prostitutes. These sexual predators can come from every walk of life and any socio-economic group.


            Operation Guardian Angel was conducted by the Human Trafficking Rescue Project, a joint task force from the Independence Police Department, the FBI, ICE, and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department. During the undercover operation, task force officers placed Internet ads for underage prostitutes. According to court documents, the ads clearly stated that the prostitutes were “little girls” and were “young.” Those who responded to the ads were given directions to an undercover location that was outfitted with audio and video recording equipment. When they arrived at the undercover residence and paid cash for a child prostitute, they were arrested by task force officers.


            This undercover operation began last Thursday and continued through Saturday. This marks the second time this year that an undercover operation was conducted in the Kansas City area as part of Operation Guardian Angel.


            Last month, three Kansas men were indicted as a result of Operation Guardian Angel, marking the first time that the U.S. Department of Justice has utilized the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to prosecute customers who allegedly attempt to pay for sex with children. While the pimps who offer to sell children to others for prostitution have been prosecuted in the Western District and elsewhere, these indictments are the first in the nation to charge a “John” with attempting to pay for sex with a child.


            Shane Allan Childers, 32, of Olathe, Kan., Christopher M. Cockrell, 33, of Amory, Miss., Steven C. Albers, 40, of Kansas City, Mo., and Richard J. Oflyng, 31, of Ottawa, Kan., were each charged with the attempted commercial sex trafficking of a child and with using the Internet and telephone to attempt to induce a child to engage in prostitution in a series of indictments returned this afternoon by a federal grand jury in Kansas City.


            Childers, an active duty naval recruiter, and Cockrell, the finance manager for an Armory automotive dealership, were each also charged with traveling across state lines for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct, that is, a commercial sex act with a person under 18 years of age.


            Albers is an insurance manager at a Plaza office. Oflyng is a truck driver who drove his tractor-trailer to the undercover residence.


            Today’s indictment replaces a federal criminal complaint that was filed against Childers on Friday, March 6, 2009. According to an affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaint, on that day Childers paid $60 to have sex with an 11-year-old girl. He paid an extra $20 to have intercourse without using a condom. The affidavit alleges that Childers was wearing his Navy uniform, but had taken off his uniform shirt and was wearing a white undershirt when he knocked on the door of the undercover residence. Childers allegedly responded to the online ad from the Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Lenexa, Kan., where he works, and allegedly used his government-owned computer, Navy e-mail address and government cellular phone to arrange the transaction.


            Today’s indictment replaces a federal criminal complaint that was filed against Cockrell on Monday, March 9, 2009. According to an affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaint, Cockrell paid $60 to have sex with a 15-year-old girl on Saturday, March 7, 2009. He paid an extra $20 in order to have intercourse without using a condom and tipped the pimp $20.


            A forfeiture allegation contained in Childers’ indictment would require him to forfeit to the government a 2002 Chrysler Sebring, which was used to commit the alleged offenses. A forfeiture allegation contained in Albers’ indictment would require him to forfeit to the government a 2002 Volkswagen Jetta, which was used to commit the alleged offenses. A forfeiture allegation contained in Oflyng’s indictment would require him to forfeit to the government a laptop computer, which was used to commit the alleged offenses.


            Under federal statutes, a conviction for the commercial sex trafficking of a child would result in a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole, up to life in federal prison without parole, for Childers, Albers and Oflyng. Due to the difference in ages between the intended victims, a conviction for the commercial sex trafficking of a child would result in a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison without parole, up to life in federal prison without parole, for Cockrell.


            Whitworth cautioned that the charges contained in these indictments are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.


            These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia L. Cordes. They were investigated by the Independence, Mo., Police Department, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in conjunction with the Human Trafficking Rescue Project.


            Additional information about federal efforts to combat child sex trafficking can be found online at the U.S. Department of Justice Web site at:


http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/ceos/trafficking.html


http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/ceos/prostitution_fedefforts.html


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This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html