Mendocino County Woman Pleads Guilty to Sex Trafficking of a Minor
SACRAMENTO, Calif. —Monica Merlin Morales, 26, of Point Arena, pleaded guilty today to sex trafficking of a minor, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, Morales and co-defendant Tion Makeise Foster, also of Point Arena, transported a 16-year-old girl to various places in the Eastern District of California and the San Francisco Bay Area in August 2016 so that she could engage in commercial sex acts for their financial benefit. Court documents indicate that Morales and Foster picked up the victim in her hometown after meeting her online. They bought her lingerie, took photos of her, and posted the photos in online prostitution advertisements. The victim did several “dates” during the week she was with the defendants. Morales and Foster ultimately returned to her hometown, but both they subsequently conspired to traffic the victim again in November and December that same year.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the Yuba County Sherriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michele Beckwith is prosecuting the case.
Foster pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of a minor on December 13, 2017, and he is scheduled to be sentenced on June 13, 2018.
Morales is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Kimberly J. Mueller on June 20, 2018. Morales faces a minimum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum statutory penalty of up to life, as well as a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. Click on the “resources” tab for information about internet safety education.