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columbia man sentenced for coerced sex trafficking of a child

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 6, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Columbia, Mo., man was sentenced in federal court today for selling a child victim into prostitution.

Eric Gathings, also known as "Pulu," 37, of Columbia, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner to 15 years in federal prison without parole.

In October 2011, both Gathings and co-defendant Brandy Key, 40, of Columbia, pleaded guilty. Key was sentenced on Monday, March 5, 2012, to 10 years in federal prison without parole.

Gathings admitted that in 2009 he recruited a homeless minor to engage in prostitution for his financial benefit. Gathings provided housing for the child victim, but took her earnings after requiring that she sell herself for sex.

After discharging a sawed-off shotgun in his front yard, Gathings was incarcerated in state custody. During this time of incarceration, he continued to sell the child victim through the assistance of an organized prostitution ring, operated by Key, called Aleesha’s Angels. Key handled the victim while Gathings was in custody and sold her for sex on his behalf, including scheduling her appointments with customers and advertising her for sex acts on the Internet. Gathings had the child victim provide him with her prostitution earnings to assist him with bond and later to provide him with funding for his prisoner=s account. Key also profited from the sale of the child victim for commercial sex acts.

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

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