ARMY SERGEANT SENTENCED TO 11 YEARS IN PRISON FOR SEX TRAFFICKING JUVENILES
Defendant Set Up Apartment and Craig’s List Ads for Juvenile Prostitutes
STERLING TERRANCE HOSPEDALES, 26, a former Army Sergeant based at Fort Lewis, Washington, was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 11 years in prison and seven years of supervised release for Sex Trafficking of a Child and Attempted Sex Trafficking of a Child. HOSPEDALES is required to register as a sex offender following his prison term. HOSPEDALES pleaded guilty July 20, 2010. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle acknowledged HOSPEDALES’ military service saying he had brought disgrace to the uniform. “You elected to go down a road of service to a country that adopted you, but you also chose a very dark road to go down . . . Whatever sentence I give you won’t heal the scars your actions imposed upon these victims,” Judge Settle said.
The investigation began on April 13, 2009, when Lakewood Police were alerted to a juvenile runaway from the Seattle area who was posting ads on Craig’s List indicating she was engaged in prostitution. Investigators from the Innocence Lost Task Force, a federal task force targeting sex trafficking of children, followed up on the information, locating and interviewing the juvenile and a second juvenile. The first juvenile ultimately admitted that she worked as a prostitute out of an apartment that she shared with HOSPEDALES, that HOSPEDALES had helped her post advertisements for prostitution with pictures of herself on Craig’s List, and that she provided the money she earned from prostituting to HOSPEDALES. The second juvenile met HOSPEDALES on the internet social networking site MySpace. She had flown to the area from Wyoming with her plane ticket paid for by HOSPEDALES. The second girl stated that she had only been in town a week when HOSPEDALES had taken provocative pictures of her and posted them on Craig’s List for prostitution purposes, but that she had not started earning money for HOSPEDALES. According to the second juvenile, HOSPEDALES threatened to kick her out of the apartment and have other girls beat her up if she didn’t pay him back for the plane ticket by prostituting. HOSPEDALES was arrested as he left the Lakewood apartment he had rented for the juveniles.
In their memo asking for a long prison term, prosecutors described how HOSPEDALES preyed on those who were particularly vulnerable. “Hospedales intentionally sought out emotionally damaged, vulnerable victims – runaways who had no support system whatsoever and no idea of how to be in a normal, functioning relationship. He did so knowing that not only would they be more susceptible to his machinations, but also because he thought that the criminal justice system might be less likely to take them seriously or see them as victims,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.
Judge Settle was especially concerned about the victims in this case. Talking about one young woman the judge said, “her life has been altered and changed in a great number of ways by your actions. To hear her, any one of us would have a broken heart for someone who went down that dark road with you.”
The case was investigated by the FBI and Lakewood Police Department as part of the Innocence Lost Task Force. Substantial assistance was provided by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kate Crisham and Bruce Miyake.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.