Gang Leader Sentenced to 40 Years for Leading Juvenile Sex Trafficking Ring
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Justin Strom, aka “Jae,” “Jae Dee,” or “J-Dirt,” 27, of Lorton, Va., was sentenced today to 40 years in prison for leading a gang-controlled prostitution business that recruited and trafficked high school girls over a five to six year period. One of Strom’s associates, Henock Ghile, 23, of Springfield, Va., also was sentenced today to 10 years in prison for serving as a driver in the sex trafficking enterprise. In total, five gang members or associates have been convicted of sex trafficking juveniles in connection with this case.
Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II, Attorney General of Virginia; Colonel David Rohrer, Fairfax County Chief of Police; and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Criminal Division, made the announcement after Strom was sentenced by United States District Judge James C. Cacheris. Ghile was sentenced separately by United States District Judge Claude M. Hilton.
“Justin Strom was the undisputed leader of a juvenile sex trafficking ring that spanned nearly six years,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “He saw these young girls as commodities and used fraud, flattery and force to lure them into the depraved world of child prostitution. Today’s sentence is both severe and appropriate. No sentence can undo the trauma endured by these girls, but we hope this sentence will help save others by driving would-be traffickers out of the child sex trafficking business.”
“Justin Strom created a waking nightmare for these girls. He exploited them through the sale of their bodies and robbed them of their childhood,” said Attorney General Cuccinelli. “Though nothing can erase the horror and hurt the girls and their families have suffered, it is our hope that today's sentencing will help them find a sense of peace as they begin a difficult journey towards healing.”
“Cases such as this one bring to light the disturbing tactics used by gang members to intimidate and coerce young girls into prostitution,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “Today’s sentences should send the message to all child predators that we will not rest until you are stopped and justice is served.”
According to court records, Strom was a leader of the Underground Gangster Crips (UGC), a Crips “set” based in Fairfax County, Va. From 2006 to March 2012, Strom masterminded a gang-controlled sex trafficking operation that prostituted at least eight girls aged 16 or 17, along with adult females, in northern Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. UGC’s recruitment efforts were multifaceted: UGC enticed juveniles and adults online through social media websites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Datehookup; in person at Metro stations and bus stops; and in area high schools and a local juvenile detention center. When encountering potential victims, members of the enterprise told recruits that they looked pretty and could use their good looks to earn money. Once the victims were ensnared by the enterprise, UGC members and associates groomed new recruits into commercial prostitution, beginning with a “demo” or “tryout” in which the victim was persuaded or manipulated into engaging in sex with one or more members of the enterprise. Then, either Strom or an experienced female participant in the scheme (often referred to as the “Head Bitch in Charge” or “HBIC”) would explain the gang’s rules and procedures, sometimes allowing the recruits to “watch and learn” as the HBIC or another female engaged in sex acts for money.
After the victims were initiated into the scheme, Strom and his associates would purchase condoms at local pharmacies and convenience stores, provide the victims with drugs and alcohol, and drive them to area neighborhoods—including Chirilagua in Alexandria, Commerce Street in Springfield, and Ballston in Arlington. Once there, the victims were instructed to walk through apartment buildings and townhouse complexes, going door-to-door to solicit customers while accompanied by a male bodyguard from the gang, with Strom and others waiting in a car nearby. As part of the operation, the victims were instructed to find apartments with multiple males inside to minimize walking in the open and to maximize profit. Strom and members of the conspiracy also advertised their victims through online sites such as Craigslist.org and Backpage.com and solicited customers for “in-call” prostitution services that were provided in the basement of Strom’s townhome in Lorton, Va. The going rate for sex with an underage girl typically was $30-$40 for 15 minutes of sex, and each victim often had sex with multiple men in one night – usually about 5-10 customers – and over the course of multiple weekdays or weekends, including as much as seven days a week).
The evidence also showed that methods of force, fraud, and coercion were pervasively used by Strom and his associates to recruit and maintain control over their victims, both in overt and subtle ways. Strom, for example, took the lead role in concocting fake profiles on Facebook.com in female names such as “Rain Smith,” “Mimi Jackson,” and “Aaliyah Marie,” using those profiles to send hundreds of messages recruiting potential victims. Some victims were told that they would only be involved in dancing, stripping, or escorting, rather than sex, and the coconspirators further enhanced the bait-and-switch by sometimes providing only a fraction of the proceeds initially promised to victims. In addition, members of the enterprise invoked the gang to intimidate or coerce the victims into sexual activity, and they also regularly plied the victims with alcohol and drugs, including cocaine, PCP, ecstasy, and marijuana, in order to reward the victims and keep them sedated or compliant. Strom, moreover, personally enforced his will through a mix of manipulation, intimidation, and where necessary, force—including chokings, beatings, and rape.
In addition to Strom’s sentencing, Henock Ghile was sentenced today for his role in the prostitution enterprise. Ghile was an associate of UGC and served as a driver in the operation, transporting two 17-year-old girls to engage in commercial sex acts between May and September 2011.
As a result of this investigation and prosecution, a total of five UGC members or associates have been convicted of sex trafficking juveniles in connection with this case. Michael Tavon Jefferies, aka “Loc,” was sentenced on July 6, 2012, to 120 months in prison for serving as a bodyguard and driver in the enterprise. Donyel Dove, aka “Bleek,” was sentenced on August 10, 2012, to 276 months in prison for his role in the prostitution enterprise and on other charges. Christopher Sylvia was sentenced on August 17, 2012, to 120 months in prison for his role in the enterprise.
This case was investigated by the Fairfax County Police Department and the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which participate in the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force. Virginia Assistant Attorney General and Special Assistant United States Attorney Marc J. Birnbaum and Assistant United States Attorney Inayat Delawala are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
Founded in 2004, the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force is a collaboration of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies – along with nongovernmental organizations – dedicated to combating human trafficking and related crimes. From FY2011 to the present, 36 defendants have been prosecuted in 20 cases in the Eastern District of Virginia for human trafficking and trafficking-related conduct involving at least 28 victims. Eleven of those defendants were gang members or associates prosecuted for sex trafficking juveniles in northern Virginia, with sentences imposed ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment.A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.justice.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on https://pcl.uscourts.gov.