KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that two St. Joseph, Mo., area commercial truck drivers – one of whom is a registered sex offender – have been indicted on charges related to the commercial sex trafficking of a child.
Tony Eugene Wardlow, 54, of St. Joseph, and Thomas Farrell, 48, of DeKalb, Mo., were charged in a six-count indictment that was returned under seal by a federal grand jury on March 13, 2013. The indictment was unsealed and made public today upon the arrests and initial court appearances of Wardlow and Farrell. Wardlow remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing.
Wardlow is a registered sex offender who was convicted in Nodaway County, Mo., of sexual misconduct involving a minor and endangering the welfare of a child. Wardlow is self-employed as a commercial truck driver, doing business as Prideco, LLC. Farrell is also self-employed as a commercial truck driver, doing business as Farrell Trucking & Hay, LLC.
The federal indictment alleges that Wardlow caused a child victim (identified as “CV”) to engage in prostitution between Aug. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2011. Wardlow is also charged with enticing a minor to engage in prostitution and with transporting a minor across state lines from Missouri to Texas to engage in prostitution. The indictment charges Farrell with enticing the victim to engage in prostitution and with transporting the victim across state lines from Missouri to Texas to engage in prostitution.
Wardlow is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Wardlow was allegedly in possession of a Marlin .22-caliber rifle on Dec. 12, 2012. Wardlow has prior felony convictions for sexual misconduct, endangering the welfare of a child and being a felon in possession of 17 firearms.
In a motion filed with the court, the government seeks to hold Wardlow in federal custody without bond. The motion states that Wardlow is charged with multiple offenses for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. Wardlow’s prior sex conviction, in which the victim was a minor, may result in a mandatory life sentence.
According to the detention motion, the government will present evidence during the detention hearing of Wardlow’s repeated sexual intercourse with the child victim, transportation to and through other states to engage in this prostitution activity with himself and others, and violent threats against the child victim should she ever inform anyone else of these incidents.
At the detention hearing, the government will also present evidence that the child victim informed law enforcement that Wardlow injured her on multiple occasions, either during or separate from their sexual activity. Beyond the physical injuries, the motion says, Wardlow often threatened the child victim in an effort to keep her from ever going to the authorities, violent threats that included the threat of death. Wardlow allegedly pointed out rivers as he transported the child victim across the country and told her that if she ever told law enforcement, he would dump her body in those rivers.
Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick D. Daly. It was investigated by the FBI, the Prairie Village, Kan., Police Department, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Overland Park, Kan., Police Department in conjunction with the Human Trafficking Rescue Project.