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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Maryland Man Convicted of Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud, and Coercion

Evidence Showed Defendant Trafficked Over 5 Women, Including a 16-Year-Old

WASHINGTON — Terrell Armstead, 29, of Baltimore, Maryland, was convicted on Monday of sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion, announced U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Shea, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division Timothy M. Dunham, and Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department Peter Newsham.

U.S. Attorney Shea stated: “The defendant exploited his young victims as if they were commodities to be controlled and sold. The prosecution of human trafficking is a priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We will fight to protect these vulnerable victims.”

“The FBI has no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm and take traffickers off the streets in our community,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Dunham. “I would like to thank the men and women of the FBI and our partners, who work tirelessly every day to bring justice for the victims of these heinous crimes. We will continue to work to protect our community from those who exploit women and children for their own personal gain and greed.”

Armstead was found guilty on March 16 following a jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before the Honorable Amit P. Mehta. Armstead was convicted of sex trafficking a woman, Victim E, by force, fraud, and coercion between June and September 2018. Armstead faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and up to life in prison. Armstead is currently serving time on a separate conviction in Maryland.

On Sept. 13, 2019, in a related case also before Judge Mehta, Armstead pled guilty to conspiracy to obtain firearms in Virginia and to transport them into the District of Columbia to resell them illegally, and to unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Those convictions carry, respectively, potential sentences of up to five and 10 years in prison. Sentencing for that case is pending.

According to evidence presented at trial, from March 2015 until September 2019, Armstead trafficked, in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and elsewhere, several young women for commercial sex, including Victim A (whom Armstead began trafficking when she was only 16 years old) and Victim E. In total, five women testified about Armstead’s role in sexually exploiting them for money. Armstead operated his “pimping” enterprise by recruiting these young women as commercial sex workers, then advertising them in online forums (like Backpage.com), having them work in strip clubs to meet “customers,” and prostituting them on “the blade,” the commercial sex track in downtown Washington, D.C. Armstead promoted himself on social media, purporting to live a life of luxury with the money he took from the women he prostituted. He controlled and manipulated the victims, including by threats of force and by brandishing various weapons (including large automatic weapons), by taking and controlling all the proceeds from their commercial sex work, by limiting their contact with friends and family (such as smashing a cellphone), and by controlling their access to transportation and even their own identification documents.

The evidence showed that, among other things, Armstead prostituted Victim A out of hotels beginning when she was only 16 years old. The government’s evidence also included Backpage.com ads, linked to Armstead’s online accounts, posted at the time showing 16‑year‑old Victim A and other girls being sold for sex as far back as March and April 2015.

The evidence also showed that Armstead lured Victim E across the country based on false promises of fantastic success and financial comfort and security. Instead, after three months of Armstead’s trafficking, Victim E left the D.C. area with nothing. Witnesses also testified about violent episodes in which Armstead assaulted his victims, including a horrifying incident in which Armstead forced a loaded gun into Victim A’s mouth while having sex with her.

Finally, the evidence showed that Armstead engaged in extensive efforts to obstruct the investigation and trial. His own recorded jail calls showed him directing Victim A to lie to investigators — and the evidence showed him continuing to contact Victim A to affect her testimony, up to and including at trial.

In announcing the conviction, U.S. Attorney Shea, Special Agent in Charge Dunham, and Chief Newsham commended the assistance provided by officers and agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Metropolitan Police Department Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the D.C. Department of Corrections. They also acknowledged the efforts of those who handled the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenya Davis and Amy Larson, Paralegal Supervisor Mary Downing and Paralegal Specialist/Contractor Kenny Nguyen.

Topic(s): 
Human Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 
20-049
Updated March 17, 2020