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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, October 16, 2017

Washington D.C. Man Sentenced To 14 Years In Federal Prison For Sex Trafficking Of A Minor

                                                                           

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                       Contact ELIZABETH MORSE

www.justice.gov/usao/md                                                  at (410) 209-4885

Greenbelt, Maryland – On October 13, 2017, United States District Judge Roger W. Titus sentenced Charleston Harris a/k/a “Giovanni,” a/k/a “Leon Baye,” age 38, of Maryland to 14 years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a minor.

In addition, as part of the terms of his plea agreement, Harris has agreed to a judicial order of removal to Liberia at the time of his release.

The sentence was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Stephen M. Schenning; Special Agent in Charge Andrew W. Vale of the Federal Bureau of Investigation – Washington office, Chief Henry P. Stawinksi III of the Prince George’s County Police Department, and Colonel William M. Pallozzi, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

According to court documents, beginning in or about April 2012, and continuing through in or about June 2015, in the District of Maryland and elsewhere, Harris managed and directed a large-scale prostitution business. Harris, with the assistance of co-conspirator, Phoebe Omwega and others, managed as many as eighteen prostitutes at a time and directed prostitution activities in Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, and Florida.

In 2012, Harris recruited a 17-year-old female to engage in prostitution under his direction. Between at least October and December 2012, the underage victim engaged in commercial sex acts in Maryland, Florida, and elsewhere. As part of their prostitution business, Harris, Omwega, and others utilized the social networking website "backpage.com" to advertise prostitution services for each of the women Harris employed. Harris also used several email accounts to communicate and direct the women who worked for him.

At the direction of Harris, women working for Harris, including the underage victim, typically charged between $100 and $200 for sexual services. Harris collected the prostitution proceeds, managed day-to-day activities by informing the women of when and where to meet "clients," instructed the women which city to travel to in order to engage in prostitution, and made hotel arrangements for the women.  Harris did not allow the women to retain any of the proceeds. The women were allowed to purchase food, clothing, and make other similar expenditures using their proceeds, and occasionally were required to track their spending and report it to Omwega.

Harris often recruited women to work for his organization by falsely stating that he and Omwega managed a modeling business in Atlanta, Georgia. Harris would confiscate the women’s clothes, cellphones, devices, keys to their vehicles, and identification documents, and would arrange for the women who worked for him to obtain false identification documents.

Harris indoctrinated new recruits into the organization by advising them of his rules. Principal among the rules was that the women were not allowed to speak with family members or law enforcement, often referred to as being "out of pocket." Harris also required the women to make a minimum of $1,000 per day and forced the women to continue to work if they failed to meet this quota. Harris enforced violations of the rules by threatening physical violence and, on occasion, physically assaulting the women who worked for him.

Acting United States Attorney Stephen M. Schenning commended the FBI, Prince George’s County Police Department, and the Maryland State Police for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Schenning thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Erin B. Pulice, Ray D.  McKenzie, and Daniel Gardner, who prosecuted the case.

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Updated October 16, 2017