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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Florida

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Third Gainesville Defendant Convicted in Child Sex Trafficking Case

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – Tawanda LaKaye Burkett, 40, was convicted today of sex trafficking of a minor.  Codefendant Hal Bernard Black, 21, pled guilty on November 5, 2015, and was sentenced on January 25, 2016, to 135 months in prison.  Codefendant Ranell Carter Jr., 25, pled guilty on October 19, 2015, and is scheduled to be sentenced on February 23, 2016, at 10:30 a.m. at the United States Courthouse in Gainesville.  The verdict and sentence were announced by Christopher P. Canova, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.

At trial, the government presented evidence that, in August 2014, Burkett, Black, and Carter, all of Gainesville, Florida, were involved in a scheme to make money using a 15-year-old girl to perform sex acts.  The defendants posted the victim’s photo in an online advertisement in a website section for “escort services.”  The true purpose of the advertisement was to offer the victim for commercial sexual activity.  The defendants also provided the victim with a cellular telephone so that “clients” could contact her.  When the “clients” responded to the advertisements, Burkett, Black, and Carter transported the victim to private residences and hotels for sexual activity.  The defendants shared the proceeds of the victim’s commercial sex acts.

This case resulted from investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Gainesville Police Department, and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Frank Williams.

Burkett and Carter each face a minimum of 10 years to life in prison.  Burkett’s sentencing hearing will be scheduled for a date to be determined at the United States Courthouse in Gainesville, Florida.

The United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General.  The office strives to protect and serve the citizens of the Northern District of Florida through the ethical, vigorous, and impartial enforcement of the laws of the United States, to defend the national security, to improve the safety and quality of life in our communities through the protection of civil rights, and to protect the public funds and financial assets of the United States.  To access public court documents online, please visit the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida website.  For more information about the United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Florida, visit

For more information, contact:
Amy Alexander, Public Information Officer
(850) 216-3854,

Human Trafficking
Project Safe Childhood
Updated February 24, 2016