Memphis Man Pleads Guilty in Connection with Sex Trafficking Scheme
Defendant Engaged in Conspiracy to Use Threats, Violence and Coercion to Compel Women into Prostitution in New Orleans and Elsewhere
Today, Laquentin Brown, aka “Nino,” 32, originally of Memphis, Tennessee, pleaded guilty to conspiring to engage in sex trafficking of adult victims in New Orleans and elsewhere, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and United States Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite Jr. of the Eastern District of Louisiana. Brown also pleaded guilty to one count of transportation for purposes of prostitution.
According to Brown’s admissions in court in the course of his guilty plea hearing and documents filed in the case, Brown—together with co-defendants Granville Robinson, aka “Bear” and “HB”; Duane Phillips, aka “P-nut”; Anthony Ellis, aka “Anthony Deshun Lloyd,” “Animal,” and “AD”; and Christopher Williams, aka “Gutter,” all of whom are from Memphis, Tennessee—conspired to target adult, U.S. citizen women, whom they recruited, groomed, and forced and coerced to engage in prostitution. Brown and his co-defendants maintained control over the women by enforcing rules, including requiring the women to earn a certain amount of money each day and requiring the women to turn over the earnings to the conspirators.
The defendants also enforced rules prohibiting the women from speaking to or looking at another pimp, and some of the co-conspirators took the women’s identification. In addition to requiring the women to prostitute in New Orleans, the co-conspirators on occasion transported the women to other states to engage in prostitution. The co-conspirators enforced the rules and compelled the women’s continued engagement in prostitution for the co-conspirators’ profit by using physical beatings, withholding of food and other punishments.
“These defendants preyed on vulnerable women and cruelly exploited them for profit,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “At the Department of Justice, we will continue to enforce our human trafficking laws to restore the rights, freedom and dignity to victims of this modern-day slavery.”
“These defendants brought vulnerable women to New Orleans to engage in commercial sex trafficking,” said U.S. Attorney Polite. “These crimes often pass without detection because victims live in fear from physical abuse, threats and other forms of coercion. My office is committed to prosecuting individuals who manipulate victims into committing commercial sex acts and profit from this illegal conduct.”
“This investigation and prosecution should serve as a clear reminder to all those individuals engaged in the heinous crime of sex trafficking that the full force of federal law enforcement, across geographical boundaries, will bring them to swift justice,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael Anderson of the FBI’s New Orleans Office.
“Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that Homeland Security Investigations fights as one of its highest priorities via a coordinated global effort with the FBI and our state and local law enforcement partners,” said Special Agent in Charge Raymond R. Parmer Jr. of Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) New Orleans. “The results speak for themselves; over the past two years HSI has doubled its number of human trafficking arrests. HSI will continue to investigate and seek prosecution of these criminals while also ensuring the victims of this terrible crime are rescued and get the care they need.”
At sentencing, Brown faces a maximum of ten years for transporting women for purposes of prostitution, and a maximum of five years for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 17, 2015.
On Oct. 3, 2014, a federal Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Louisiana returned a nine-count indictment charging Robinson, Phillips, Ellis and Williams with conspiring to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion. The indictment also charged Robinson, Phillips and Williams with sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion and with interstate transportation for prostitution. The indictment also charged motel owner Kanubhai Patel, age 73, of Kenner, Louisiana, with benefiting financially from participation in the sex trafficking venture. An indictment is merely a charge and the guilt of the defendants must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
On June 25, 2014, Zacchaeus Taylor, aka “Little Z,” “Little Zay,” and “Little 5,” pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme. Taylor is scheduled for trial on April 20, 2015.
The New Orleans Field Offices of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security-Homeland Security Investigations are investigating the case with assistance from the FBI’s Memphis Field Office. This case is being prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel John Cotton Richmond and Trial Attorney Christine M. Siscaretti of the Civil Right Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, and Assistant United States Attorney Julia K. Evans of the Eastern District of Louisiana.