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Press Release

Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A Tennessee man pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor and sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion.

According to court documents, from December 2021 through March 2022, Charles Cunigan, 31, and his girlfriend, Latesha Gardner, transported the victim, who was a minor throughout the timeframe of the conspiracy, across state lines from Tennessee to Illinois, Louisiana, and Texas for the purpose of causing her to engage in commercial sex acts. Cunigan advertised the victim for commercial sex on websites, kept the money the victim made from commercial sex transactions, required the victim to earn a daily quotas from commercial sex, and restricted the victim’s access to food.  Cunigan also tracked the victim’s location using a cell phone application and told her that he would find and kill the victim if she ever tried to leave.

Cunigan used violence to accomplish the scheme. For example, if the victim did not comply with Cunigan’s demands, he would beat the victim, which Cunigan did when he punched and kicked the victim during an altercation in February 2022. On occasion, Cunigan also directed Gardner to use physical force against the victim. 

Cunigan is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 24. If the court accepts the guilty plea, the government and Cunigan have agreed that Cunigan will be sentenced to 22 years and six months’ imprisonment. Cunigan has also agreed to pay $48,750 in restitution to the victim. As a result of his conviction, Cunigan must participate in the sex offender registration and notification program upon his release from custody.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans for the Eastern District of Louisiana; and Deputy Special Agent in Charge Eric DeLaune of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New Orleans made the announcement.

HSI New Orleans investigated the case. 

Trial Attorney Melissa E. Bücher of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria M. Carboni for the Eastern District of Louisiana are prosecuting the case.

Updated June 25, 2024

Press Release Number: 24-811