COLUMBUS MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO SEX TRAFFICKING OF JUVENILE
TUESDAY, JANUARY 21, 2014
Public Affairs Officer
COLUMBUS – Valerio V. Alexander, 45, of Columbus, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court today to one count of sex trafficking involving a juvenile.
Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Marlon Miller, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Ohio State Highway Patrol Commander Paul Pride and Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs announced the plea entered today before U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr.
The plea agreement includes a sentence of 15 years in prison for Alexander. The court will conduct a pre-sentence investigation prior to determining whether or not to accept the plea agreement and the sentence. The court will determine the length of any term of supervised release and the amount of any fine or restitution. Judge Sargus will set a date for sentencing.
“The investigation began following a tip called in to the National Human Trafficking Hotline,” U.S. Attorney Stewart said. “Prostitution of a juvenile is human trafficking as defined by federal law. We will prosecute it aggressively.”
According to court documents, a task force officer working for HSI received information in March 2013 that a 16-year-old child had been the victim of sex trafficking. Further investigation found that Alexander had taken photographs of the victim in February 2013 and used the pictures to create advertisements for prostitution on a website.
Alexander instructed the victim to stay at a Columbus apartment he provided and offered her condoms and marijuana to “calm her nerves.” The victim followed Alexander’s instructions and engaged in sexual activity for money.
Agents arrested Alexander on March 8, 2013. He has been in custody since his arrest. A federal grand jury indicted Alexander and a woman involved in the human trafficking, Thomasina Howard in April 2013. Howard pleaded guilty on August 9, 2013 to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children and is scheduled for sentencing on February 13. Alexander was scheduled to go on trial today.
“Human trafficking is a horrendous crime, especially when it affects children, and this case shows why it is so important to work together to fight this problem,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “The task force has done an exemplary job, and I am proud of the work that my office, our local partners, and federal officials are doing to further awareness and expand efforts to fight human trafficking.”
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls and texts from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. The NHTRC is a program of Polaris Project, a non-profit, non-governmental organization working exclusively on the issue of human trafficking. Call the hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).
U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the investigation by HSI, Columbus Police and Ohio Attorney General DeWine’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission.
U.S. Attorney Stewart also commended Assistant U.S. Attorneys Heather Hill and Deborah Solove, who prosecuted the case.
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