News and Press Releases

human trafficking rescue project
columbia man, kC woman indicted for coerced sex trafficking
of adult, minor victims

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 7, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a Columbia, Mo., man and a Kansas City, Mo., woman have been indicted by a federal grand jury for human trafficking after both an adult victim and a minor victim allegedly were sold into prostitution.

            Eric Gathings, also known as “Pulu,” 36, of Columbia, and Brandy Key, also known as Brandy Wheeler, 39, of Kansas City, were charged in a seven-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday, March 1, 2011. That indictment was unsealed and made public today upon the arrest and initial court appearance of Key. Gathings is in state custody on unrelated charges.

The federal indictment charges Gathings and Key together with one count of sex trafficking of a minor between June 1 and Dec. 31, 2009. Gathings and Key are also charged together with one count of using the Internet and cell phones to commit a crime of violence against the minor victim and to facilitate the unlawful activity of prostitution and sex trafficking of a minor.

The indictment also charges Gathings with using a telephone to threaten to injure the minor victim. Gathings allegedly threatened to locate and choke the victim on Sept. 25, 2009. Gathings is also charged with participating in a conspiracy to distribute marijuana to the minor victim from June 1 to Dec. 31, 2009.

            In addition, Gathings is charged with one count of sex trafficking of an adult by force, fraud or coercion from Aug. 18, 2008, to Sept. 14, 2009. Gathings is also charged with one count of using the Internet and cell phones to commit a crime of violence against the adult victim and to facilitate the unlawful activity of prostitution and sex trafficking of an adult.

Gathings is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The indictment alleges that Gathings, who has prior felony criminal convictions, was in possession of a Savage Arms 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun without a serial number from July 4 to Aug. 13, 2009. Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition.

The federal indictment contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require Gathings to forfeit to the government any property obtained from the proceeds of the alleged offenses, including $10,000 that was allegedly derived from commercial sex trafficking of both the adult and minor victims.

            Phillips cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment 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.

            This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia L. Cordes. It was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Columbia, Mo., Police Department, with assistance from the Cole County, Mo., Prosecutor’s Office, in conjunction with the Human Trafficking Rescue Project.

(Indictment )

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