“Our unique task force model is dismantling networks in North Carolina. Today we are expanding upon the work already underway in Southeastern North Carolina, bringing together our law enforcement and community partners to rescue victims and prosecute those who are exploiting vulnerable individuals for labor, services, or commercial sex,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Easley. “I commend the work of the FBI and our local partners to lay the groundwork for this expanded partnership.”
The dedicated human trafficking task force for Southeastern North Carolina will meet regularly to share intelligence and investigative leads, receive specialized training, develop investigative tools and expertise for law enforcement agencies, and to foster community partnerships to provide the services needed to assist trafficking victims. The task force includes law enforcement partners from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (NCSBI), Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, Onslow County Sheriff’s Office, Carteret County Sheriff’s Office, Jacksonville Police Department, and the Whiteville Police Department, as well as federal and state prosecutors from the United States Attorney’s Office and the North Carolina District Attorney’s Offices for the 5th and 6th Prosecutorial Districts.
"For years the FBI and our local law enforcement partners have been working tirelessly to combat human trafficking along North Carolina's coast," said Robert M. DeWitt, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI. "We are deeply appreciative to the U.S. Attorney's Office Eastern District for dedicating additional resources to join our mission to hold those accountable who enslave others for their own profit."
“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is proud to be part of this all-important human trafficking task force working in conjunction with the United States Attorney’s Office and our local, state, and federal partners,” said Kyle D. Burns, Deputy Special Agent in Charge of HSI Charlotte, which covers both North and South Carolina. “Human trafficking is a heinous crime that affects the most vulnerable members of society and by dedicating significant resources to this endeavor, we’re able to work jointly to dismantle these criminal organizations that seek to exploit these victims for their own financial gain.”
“The Sheriff's Office has had a zero-tolerance approach to human trafficking,” said New Hanover Sheriff Ed McMahon. “We will continue to dedicate resources and work with our partners to eradicate this evil crime.”
“The criminals and criminal organizations involved in human trafficking deserve the full attention of prosecutors and law enforcement. Justice for them should be swift and resolute. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is proud to join our partners and we applaud this effort to bring justice to those who so rightly deserve it,” said North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Schurmeier.
Prosecution of Human Traffickers
Finally, the office is highlighting several human trafficking prosecutions from 2023 that have helped to put traffickers and members of their organizations behind bars. Notable cases from 2023 include the following:
USA v. Timothy Bavaro (No. 7:20-CR-115-M)
On March 14, 2023, Timothy Bavaro was sentenced to 180 months in prison and ordered to pay nearly $90,000 in restitution to multiple victims for his role as the leader and organizer of a prostitution enterprise that he operated from at least 2015 to 2019 across various states (including New York, South Carolina, and North Carolina), victimizing at least seven women. Information from the victims and a cooperating witness all provided information regarding Bavaro’s prostitution business, including Bavaro’s physical abuse of victims and the fear that many victims cited as the reason they continued engaging in commercial sex for his financial gain. Victims reported they were required to give Bavaro anywhere from 50-100% of their earnings while still having to pay their expenses, leaving them with little to nothing. Bavaro appealed, but on December 21, 2023, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence imposed by the district court and dismissed the remainder of Bavaro’s appeal.
USA v. Yomere Juan Busbee (No. 5:20-CR-393-M)
On March 24, 2023, Busbee – a violent pimp and drug dealer from Fayetteville – was sentenced to 390 months in prison. In September 2022, a federal jury in Wilmington found Busbee guilty on six counts related to the kidnapping of four victims, including a minor, as well as several drug and gun offenses that came to light during an investigation into the defendant’s sex trafficking activities. Two co-defendants pled guilty and received sentences of 108 and 90 months, respectively.
USA v. Roderick Wall (No. 7:22-CR-90-D)
On May 25, 2023, the court sentenced Roderick Wall to 78 months in prison for his role in a drug conspiracy, during which he facilitated commercial sex out of his house. According to court documents and information presented in court, Wall posted online advertisements for sexual services and allowed females to engage in commercial sex out of his home, often while supplying the females with drugs. Wall’s wife and two minor children lived in the home with him and were present during some of the drug transactions and during a search warrant on August 18, 2021. Additionally, Wall sold fentanyl to a pregnant woman, and home surveillance footage showed another pregnant female injecting fentanyl supplied by Wall.
USA v. Kevin Harold Rudolph (No. 5:19-CR-336-FL)
Marcus Antwan Gambrell and co-defendant Kevin Rudolph were charged with sex trafficking of a 14-year-old minor and using the internet to promote prostitution. In addition, Gambrell faced charges for manufacturing child pornography, and Rudolph for possession of a firearm by a felon. Rudolph pled guilty to sex trafficking of a minor and aiding and abetting and was sentenced to 180 months in prison on April 5, 2023.
USA v. Ok Hwa Lee, et al. (No. 7:21-CR-00079)
From January to April 2023, the court sentenced five defendants who had been indicted in connection with an investigation into illicit massage parlors where sexual services were being provided. The indictment charged them with conspiracy, bribery, and operating an illegal prostitution enterprise in interstate commerce. All five defendants pled guilty in 2022, and all five were sentenced in 2023 to 10 years collectively. The leader of the organization, Ok Hwa Lee, 55, was sentenced to 34 months in prison. Shanyu Song, 50, and Xuejin Bai, 51, were sentenced to 26 and 12 months and one day, respectively. Additionally, Lee was ordered to forfeit $151,000; Song $146,000; and Bai $55,000. Ming Ji Cao was sentenced to 18 months, and a $1000 fine, and Og Bun Park was sentenced to 15 months and a $750 fine.
USA v. Brittney McCoy, et al. (No. 7:23-CR-22-M-RJ)
In March 2023, Brittney Chantel McCoy was indicted with sex trafficking of a minor and operating an illegal prostitution enterprise in interstate commerce. McCoy pled guilty to sex trafficking of a minor on August 9, 2023, and is set for sentencing in January 2024.
Melody Faye Nobles was initially charged with McCoy but was also subsequently indicted in a superseding indictment in August 2023, charging sex trafficking of a minor and operating an illegal prostitution enterprise in interstate commerce. Nobles allowed her co-defendant, McCoy, and a then 16-year-old minor victim to engage in commercial sex in her home in Wilmington, NC, in exchange for a portion of the money that McCoy and the minor earned. Later that same month, Nobles allowed the minor to travel to Jacksonville, NC, to engage in commercial sex, again in exchange for the proceeds.
Nobles pled guilty to operating an illegal prostitution enterprise in interstate commerce in September 2023 and was sentenced on December 12, 2023, to 48 months imprisonment and ordered to register as a sex offender.
USA v. Brieania Shidae Pinnock, et al. (No. 5:23-CR-210-FL-KS)
In June 2023, the government indicted Brieania Shidae Pinnock, charging her with eight human trafficking and child pornography offenses, including conspiracy, sex trafficking of a minor, production of child pornography, operating an illegal prostitution enterprise in interstate commerce, and distribution of child pornography. Co-defendant Trinity Sky Alston was charged with four counts, including sex trafficking of a minor, child pornography. Both defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
USA v. Christopher Todd Evans (No. 7:23-CR-82-M-RJ)
In July 2023, the government indicted a long-term human trafficking investigation, charging two human trafficking-related counts, including promotion or facilitation of prostitution and operating an illegal prostitution enterprise in interstate commerce. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
USA v. Deangelo Taborn, et al. (No. 7:23-CR-92-D-BM)
In August 2023, the government indicted DeAngelo Rarhem Taborn and co-defendant on Imani Jovianna Franco on multiple human trafficking and firearm offenses, including conspiracy, sex trafficking, interstate travel for prostitution by coercion or persuasion, interstate travel for prostitution (Mann Act), operating an illegal prostitution enterprise in interstate commerce and felon in possession of a firearm. Taborn faces eight charges and Franco faces seven. Both defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
If you or anyone you know needs help or has information to provide regarding a potential human trafficking situation, please contact law enforcement by calling 911 if the situation appears unsafe, or contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline:
A copy of this press release is located on our website.