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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 29, 2014

Repeat Offender And Accomplice Sentenced For Sex Trafficking Of A Minor From West Africa

ATLANTA - Steven E. Thompson has been sentenced to 25 years for sex trafficking of a minor by threats of force, fraud and coercion, conspiring to do the same, and inducing adult women to travel interstate for prostitution.  His accomplice, Tierra Waters, has been sentenced to eight years for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a minor.

“These defendants exploited a 17-year-old girl from West Africa who desperately needed a place to live,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.  “The pair coerced the minor into engaging in prostitution at hotels and residences in Atlanta.  Sex trafficking has no place in our society.  And those who exploit vulnerable children in this way will face the kind of lengthy prison sentences that the defendants justly received today.”

“Like many of the young women we see exploited by sex traffickers in our investigations, this child was vulnerable and in need of help when she fell victim to this predator,” said Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta. “Make no mistake, it was no chance encounter that brought this child into contact with the defendants. Sex traffickers are constantly on the lookout for vulnerable women and children they can exploit for their so-called ‘escort’ businesses. As these defendants have learned, law enforcement agencies like HSI and GBI are constantly on the lookout for these abusive predators and will hold them accountable for their heartless crimes.”

“Protecting children is a top priority for the GBI.  We will continue to work in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to identify, investigate, and assist in the prosecution of individuals who have exploited children.  It is imperative for law enforcement to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” said Vernon Keenan, Director, Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Between April and June 2011, Thompson, a convicted felon who used the nickname “Silk,” advertised a 17-year-old refugee from Sierra Leone, West Africa for prostitution on the website Backpage.com, falsely listing her as ages 19 and 20 years.  When the juvenile met Thompson and Waters, she was living in the United States without her parents; relying on relatives and friends for housing and support; and frequently homeless.   In February 2011, Clayton County, Ga., Juvenile Court declared her a deprived child and placed her in a temporary shelter.  Her grandmother took custody of her, but soon left the country, leaving the minor to fend for herself. 

In April 2011, Thompson and Waters offered to allow the minor to live with them while she waited to enter the Job Corps.  After living with Thompson and Waters only a few weeks, the defendants told the minor that she must have sex with men to earn money or leave their condominium.  During this time, the juvenile saw Thompson verbally and physically abuse Waters, who worked as a prostitute for Thompson.  Thompson also forced the minor to have sex with him on more than one occasion.  Thompson and Waters transported the minor to the various locations where they coerced her into engaging in prostitution, and kept all her earnings.  Thompson and Waters also angrily confronted the juvenile after discovering that she was avoiding calls from customers responding to the Backpage.com ads. 

A witness who met the minor through the Backpage.com ads agreed to cooperate in the investigation.  According to the witness, he was initially unaware that the girl was underage.  But after the witness engaged in a commercial sex act with the minor, he began receiving threatening text messages from Thompson.  In the text messages, Thompson disclosed that the girl was a minor and attempted to extort money from the witness.    

In addition to the minor victim, Thompson also advertised two adult women for prostitution in Internet ads: A.M. from Washington, and F.F. from Alabama.  Thompson met the women on the Internet and persuaded them to travel to Atlanta to work as prostitutes for him.  Between March and August 2011, Thompson induced both women to travel interstate for that purpose.

Thompson, 44, of Atlanta, Ga., a repeat offender, having been previously convicted of federal offenses involving counterfeiting currency and being a felon in possession of a firearm, was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison, to be followed by ten years of supervised release.  Thompson was convicted on June 25, 2014, of conspiracy to commit, and commission of, sex trafficking of a minor, and inducing adult women to travel interstate for prostitution, following a jury trial.  Thompson must register as sex offender as a condition of his supervised release.

Waters, 30, of Atlanta, Ga., pleaded guilty on July 25, 2013, to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor and was sentenced to eight years in federal prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release. 

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations-Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant United States Attorneys Susan Coppedge and Leslie J. Abrams prosecuted the case.

This case is being brought as part of Project Safe Childhood.  In February 2006, the Attorney General launched Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse.  Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices around the country, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.

Updated April 8, 2015