Houston Man Gets Massive Sentence for Sex Trafficking of Minors for Commercial Sex
HOUSTON – A 22-year-old Houston man has been handed a significant federal prison sentence following his convictions of trafficking two children under the age of 18 for commercial sex, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez. Antonio Rasheed Benjamin aka “Papi P” pleaded guilty March 24, 2017.
Today, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon ordered Benjamin to prison for 360 months. Following that 30-year-sentence, Benjamin will serve 10 years of supervised release, during which time he will have to comply with numerous requirements designed to restrict his access to children and the Internet. He will also be ordered to register as a sex offender.
The investigation into Benjamin began after a woman he had assaulted contacted authorities in March 2016.
Benjamin knew the girls were minors and groomed them to engage in commercial sex by promising them riches and a lavish lifestyle. He arranged for girls to work as strippers and prostitute for him. He regularly transported women to and from strip clubs, rented hotel rooms for the purpose of commercial sex acts and posted ads on backpage.com advertising the girls. Benjamin took all of the money the minors earned.
One of the victims said she felt obligated to live with Benjamin and was forced to prostitute for him. He would site next to her and instruct her on what to say to customers on the phone. She indicated that while she was with him, she worked every day and averaged two or more customers per night. Another victim stated that girls who stripped in clubs for him had to make $100 a night or “there were consequences.”
On more than one occasion, Benjamin left one of the victims stranded in unknown locations. Another victim recounted an incident in which Benjamin had punched her in the chest and it hurt for days.
Benjamin has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) conducted the investigation. HTRA law enforcement includes members of the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Houston Police Department, sheriff’s offices in Harris and Montgomery counties, Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission, Texas Attorney General’s Office, Department of State, Department of Labor, IRS and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Established in 2004, the United States Attorney’s office in Houston formed the HTRA to combine resources with federal, state and local enforcement agencies and prosecutors, as well as non-governmental service organizations to target human traffickers while providing necessary services to those that the traffickers victimized. Since its inception, HTRA has been recognized as a national model in identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking and prosecuting those engaged in trafficking offenses. In 2016, the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance received $1.5 million in federal funds from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office for Victims of Crime through the Enhanced Collaborative Model Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force Program, which provides funding to investigate and prosecute cases of human trafficking and provide services to victims.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Zack is prosecuting this case.