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Press Release

Cherokee County Man Convicted of Sex Trafficking Teens in Tyler Area

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Texas

TYLER, Texas - A Jacksonville, Texas man has been convicted of federal sex trafficking violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney Damien M. Diggs today.

Desnique Deshawn Herndon, 27, was convicted of six counts of sex trafficking of children and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children. Herndon was found guilty of all counts by a jury following a five-day trial before U.S. District Judge J. Campbell Barker.

According to information presented in court, beginning in 2019, Herndon engaged in trafficking multiple teenage girls for commercial sex acts. Herndon recruited the girls by social media, deceived them by promising riches, and placed them in hotels in the Tyler area.  He then posted advertisements on sex trafficking websites showing explicit photos of the girls and offering commercial sex acts.  Some of Herndon’s victims were as young as 13 years old. During trial, jurors heard testimony that Herndon used co-conspirators to continue to run his operation while he was in jail so that the victims could earn money to pay his bond.

Three of Herndon's co-conspirators previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the offenses. Malcolm Kadeem Roberts, 27, of Tyler, pleaded guilty on October 4, 2022, to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children.  Roberts also faces pending aggravated sexual assault of a child charges in Smith County for his conduct in relation to one of the minor victims in this case.  Patrick Lamont Cross, Jr, 27, of Palestine, Texas pleaded guilty on August 22, 2022, to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children.  Tavarus D. Watkins, 27, of Jacksonville, Texas, pleaded guilty on August 9, 2022, to interstate transport of a minor for illegal sexual activity.

Under federal statutes, Herndon faces up to life in federal prison at sentencing. The maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations’ Tyler Resident Agency, the FBI Tyler Resident Agency, Texas DPS Criminal Investigations Division, the Texas Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Unit, Tyler Police Department, Henderson County Sherriff’s Office, Cherokee County Sherriff’s Office, the Jacksonville Police Department, and the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab.  This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan Locker and Alan Jackson, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Jiral.


Updated June 27, 2023

Project Safe Childhood