Two Delaware Men Plead Guilty to Sex Trafficking a 15-Year-Old Girl
“Working to End Human Trafficking is a Priority for the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office”
Baltimore, Maryland – Steven M. Williams, a/k/a “Brother Ray”, a/k/a “Ray,” age 39, formerly of Delaware, pleaded guilty today to sex trafficking of a child by force, fraud, and coercion. Also today, co-defendant Harry E. Rivers, a/k/a “Hakeem” and “Pots,” age 29, also of Delaware, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a child, while a third co-defendant, Jessica L. Schaefer, a/k/a “Tutti,” age 24, of Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to that same charge on January 10, 2019.
The guilty pleas were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Chief Matthew Donnelly of the Elkton Police Department.
“Human traffickers compel victims to work for little or no compensation, often using violence and threats and engaging in illegal activity such as prostitution,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “Through the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, local, state and federal law enforcement partners are working with non-profit organizations to help human trafficking victims and prosecute the traffickers. Working to end human trafficking is a priority for the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
According to their plea agreements, Schaefer and the victim, Girl 1, engaged in commercial sex acts with men in Delaware. Girl 1 was 15 years old and a resident of Pennsylvania, but lived with her father in Delaware. Schaefer posted ads of herself for commercial sex purposes. Williams responded to one of the ads and determined that Schaefer and Girl 1 would work for him. Williams provided Schaefer and Girl 1 with crack cocaine and they were eventually in debt to Williams. Girl 1 and Schaefer then engaged in commercial sex acts to pay off their debt to Williams. Girl 1 and Schaefer gave any proceeds earned from performing commercial sex acts to Williams. To facilitate the commercial sex acts, Williams rented hotel rooms in his name or the names of men paying for the commercial sex acts, and Rivers provided narcotics to the females and their customers, and helped to arrange “dates” for the females.
In July 2017, Williams drove Girl 1 from Delaware to Elkton, Maryland, separating her from Schaefer. Girl 1 woke up in a motel in Elkton with another sex worker, AH. At Williams’ direction, AH posted an ad featuring a picture of Girl 1 on a website used to advertise and solicit for commercial sex, including the sexual exploitation of minors. While in Maryland, Girl 1 performed commercial sex acts and gave the monies she earned to Williams. Williams physically abused Girl 1 if he thought she was not giving him all the money she earned, and also displayed his firearm.
On July 13, 2017, Girl 1 attempted to leave and hid in AH’s hotel room. Williams, Rivers, and Schaefer traveled from Newark, Delaware to Elkton, to take Girl 1 back to Delaware, to ensure that she did not leave Williams’ employ. Williams and Rivers each had a firearm which they used to threaten AH, demanding that she produce Girl 1. Schaefer had a taser, which she ignited, barged into AH’s room, and took Girl 1 from the room against her will. The defendants drove Girl 1 back to Delaware so that she could continue to engage in commercial sex acts.
On July 14, 2017, AH reported the abduction of Girl 1 to law enforcement. Girl 1 was located and rescued in Newark, Delaware the next day, and the defendants were arrested.
As part of their plea agreements, the defendants will be required to register as sex offenders in the places where they reside, where they are employees, and where they are students, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).
All three defendants face a maximum of life in prison. Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar has scheduled sentencing for Rivers and Williams on April 26, 2019 at 2:00 p.m., and May 31, 2019 at 10:00 a.m., respectively. No date has been set for Schaeffer’s sentencing.
U.S. Attorney Robert Hur commended the FBI, the Elkton Police Department, the Newark (Delaware) Police Department, the Wilmington (Delaware) Police Department, the Cecil County Department of Social Services, the Cecil County State's Attorney's Office, and the Delaware Department of Justice for their work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patricia C. McLane and Zachary A. Myers, who are prosecuting the case.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland (USAO-MD) maintains a robust human trafficking program, charging an average of ten trafficking defendants every year since 2009, in addition to dozens of defendants charged with child pornography offenses.
As one of the founding members of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force (MHTTF), the U.S. Attorney’s Office leads the Task Force’s outreach and enforcement efforts. MHTTF is a statewide coalition of prosecutors, police, and community organizations that work to identify, rescue and rehabilitate victims of human trafficking while investigating and prosecuting offenders. Learn more about the Task Force’s work at http://www.mdhumantrafficking.org.
Additional information about the USAO’s efforts to end human trafficking follows.
- Human Trafficking Coordinator and Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force (MHTTF)
Since 2007, the USAO-MD has designated an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) to serve as Human Trafficking Coordinator for the district. This AUSA is the point of contact for law enforcement agencies and state prosecutors for human trafficking cases, and serves as the chair of the MHTTF. In addition, the USAO-MD Law Enforcement Coordinator, who has been involved in MHTTF since its inception, serves as a point of contact for outreach, training, and enforcement efforts through the MHTTF.
Led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Task Force serves to coordinate activities, develop policy, and implement strategic plans to combat human trafficking in Maryland. The MHTTF maintains five active sub-committees: Law Enforcement, Victim Services, Training, Public Outreach and Legislative.
Since its inception in 2007, the MHTTF has sought to raise public awareness and implement best practices in investigations, prosecutions, victim identification, and victim service response. Members have customized practices for the unique circumstances that Maryland faces both as an originating point and as a throughway for human trafficking. Law enforcement, prosecutors, and providers work together on the MHTTF to take a victim-centered approach: freeing the victim from oppression and rehabilitating the victim as a witness in order to bring traffickers to justice.
The USAO-MD Human Trafficking and Law Enforcement Coordinators also regularly consult with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies regarding their current activities in investigating human trafficking crimes.
In addition, USAO-MD in coordination with the MHTTF offers or arranges a wide variety of training to educate law enforcement about best practices in investigating human trafficking. In 2018, the USAO-MD delivered eight law enforcement trainings to more than 490 officers and participated in or sponsored six public awareness events reaching more than 500 community members. The advanced investigators training, held in April 2018, trained 160 law enforcement professionals; and the human trafficking professionals training, held in October 2018 trained 155 human trafficking professionals, to include members of government and non-government agencies, and service providers.
Prosecution of Human Trafficking Cases
In 2018, USAO-MD charged 15 defendants with trafficking offenses, including the defendants who pleaded guilty today. Other notable indictments include the following:
United States v. Rody L. Bowden: On May 16, 2018, Rody L. Bowden, of Prince George’s County, Maryland, was indicted on charges of sex trafficking of a minor, sexual exploitation of a minor, and transportation of child pornography. Bowden was also charged with committing these offenses as a registered sex offender. According to the four-count indictment, beginning in December 2016, Bowden engaged in commercial sex acts with a 14-year-old ninth-grade student and took video of the sexually explicit conduct, later e-mailing a copy of the video to another account that he controlled. Bowden is a registered sex offender, stemming from two convictions for sex offenses in Maryland. If convicted, Bowden faces a mandatory 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, for sex trafficking of a minor; a mandatory 35 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, for sexual exploitation of a minor; and a mandatory 15 years and a maximum of 40 years in prison, for transportation of child pornography.
United States v. Ryan Russell Parks: On June 7, 2018, Ryan Russell Parks, a/k/a “Dinero,” was indicted on two counts of sex trafficking of a minor and one count of use of interstate facilities to promote an enterprise involving prostitution. According to the indictment, Parks had a 16-year-old female and a 15-year-old female engage in commercial sex acts with customers. The indictment alleges that Parks would routinely receive and attempt to receive the monies that the girls earned through commercial sex acts. Parks faces a mandatory 10 years in prison and up to life in prison for each count of sex trafficking of a minor, and a maximum of five years in prison for use of an interstate facility to promote prostitution.
United States v. Reginald Parker and Robin Tarburton: On December 20, 2018, Reginald Parker and Robin Tarburton were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor and sex trafficking of a minor. Parker was also charged with attempted enticement of a minor. According to the indictment, Parker engaged in a sex act with the 15-year-old minor, in exchange for money and drugs provided to Tarburton. Additionally, the indictment alleges that Parker exchanged various sexually explicit electronic mail and text messaging communications with the girl that culminated in Parker and the girl engaging in prostitution and criminal sexual activity. Parker and Tarburton each face a mandatory 10 years in prison and up to life in prison for the conspiracy and for sex trafficking of a minor.
Additionally, USAO-MD secured guilty pleas and/or sentences in the following cases:
United States v. Roland Akum: Roland Chick Akum, formerly of Silver Spring, Maryland, pleaded guilty to two counts of sex trafficking of a minor and was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison. According to his plea agreement, between June and August 2017, Akum, a/k/a “Rayne,” transported two minor females, 15 and 17 years old, respectively, to a motel in College Park, Maryland, in order to engage in commercial sex acts, used a website that marketed commercial sex to advertise the girls, and kept a portion of the proceeds that customers paid the girls for commercial sex acts.
United States v. Al Samuel Lawson: On April 20, 2018, Al Samuel Lawson, of Baltimore, Maryland was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for sex trafficking of a minor related to the trafficking of two minor females, 15 and 16 years old, respectively, for prostitution in Maryland.
United States v. Richard Small: On June 5, 2018, Richard Dane Small, a/k/a “Maserati,” of Hagerstown, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for sex trafficking of a minor. According to his plea agreement, in June 2015, Small transported a 15-year-old girl and a 17-year-old girl from Pennsylvania to Maryland with the intent that each minor victim engage in prostitution, and received money that each minor victim made.
United States v. Chukwuemeka Ekwonna: On January 29, 2019, Chukwuemeka Ekwonna, of Glenn Dale, Maryland, pleaded guilty to two counts of sex trafficking of a minor. Between October 2016 and February 2017, Ekwonna, who at the time was a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer in Washington, D.C., engaged in sexual conduct with two girls, who were 14 and 15 years old, in exchange for money. Ekwonna faces a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 20 years in prison. He also will be required to register as a sex offender. Sentencing is scheduled for May 10, 2019 at 12:00 p.m.
The USAO-MD has many resources deployed in the fight against human trafficking, aimed at investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases; providing support and services for victims; engaging in outreach to law enforcement, prosecutors, non-governmental organizations, and other partners; and educating the community. We will continue to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases to end this harmful crime.