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
JULY 16, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HUMAN TRAFFICKING RESCUE PROJECT
OPERATION GUARDIAN ANGEL
MISSISSIPPI MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO
SEX TRAFFICKING OF A CHILD
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Matt J. Whitworth, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that an Amory, Miss., man pleaded guilty in federal court today to the attempted commercial sex trafficking of a child.
This conviction is the result of Operation Guardian Angel, a unique undercover law enforcement investigation targeting the demand for child prostitutes in the Kansas City metro area. As a result of this investigation, a total of seven defendants were indicted in the nation’s first-ever federal prosecution of the alleged customers of child prostitution under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
Christopher M. Cockrell, 34, of Amory, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple this morning to the charge contained in a March 10, 2009, federal indictment.
During the weekend of March 5 to 7, 2009, the Human Trafficking Rescue Project, led by the Independence Police Department, conducted a sting operation targeting local customers who solicit pimps to engage in commercial sex acts with children. The “children” were advertised online at Craig’s List. No real children were actually involved in the sting.
Cockrell, who was employed as a finance manager at an Amory car dealership, admitted that he found the undercover advertisement while at his place of employment. Cockrell, who was traveling to the Kansas City area that weekend, agreed to pay $60 to have sex with a 15-year-old girl, whom he believed to be a runaway, plus an additional $20 to have sex without using a condom. Cockrell also admitted that he engaged in a series of e-mail conversations with an undercover officer, whom he believed to be a pimp, asking at one point, “Is she willing or do you have to hold her down?”
When he arrived at the undercover location, he paid the undercover officer a $100 bill and told him to keep the change. The undercover officer pointed to a room with a mattress on the floor, and when Cockrell began to walk to the room, he was arrested.
Officers searched Cockrell’s vehicle and located a loaded Desert Eagle semi-automatic .45-caliber handgun, nine knives, two digital cameras and a notepad that contained names and phone numbers of females who provide commercial sex acts.
Under federal statutes, Cockrell is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of life in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia L. Cordes. It was 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.
Operation Guardian Angel
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 operation marks 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.
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