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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of North Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 24, 2017

Federal Indictment Charges A Charlotte Man, His Wife, And His Mother With Conspiracy To Sex Traffic Three Minors And Related Charges

The Minors Were Allegedly Transported from Charlotte to Myrtle Beach, S.C. to Engage in Commercial Sex Acts

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A Charlotte man, his wife, and his mother are facing federal charges for engaging in a conspiracy to sex traffic three minor victims and related charges, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. A federal grand jury returned the eight count indictment on April 20, 2017, charging Zerrell Ross Fuentes, 22, Brianna Leshay Wright, a.k.a. Brianna Fuentes, 24, and Tanya Marie Fuentes, 53, all of Charlotte, with one count of sex trafficking conspiracy, two counts of sex trafficking of a minor, and three counts of transportation of a minor to engage in prostitution. Brianna Wright and Tanya Fuentes are also charged with one additional count of sex trafficking of a minor.

 

John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division, Nick Annan, Special Agent in Charge of ICE/Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Georgia and the Carolinas, and Chief Kerr Putney of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department join U.S. Attorney Rose in making today’s announcement.

 

The federal indictment alleges that between April 28, 2016 and May 8, 2016, the three defendants conspired with each other to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide and obtain by any means three minors, for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex act. The indictment also alleges that the minors were transported across state lines for the purposes of prostitution.

 

Specifically, the indictment alleges that Zerrell Fuentes, while in jail, used a telephone to recruit three minor victims living in Charlotte to engage in commercial sex acts for his benefit, knowing the minor victims were not yet 18 years of age. The indictment further alleges that Zerrell Fuentes used the telephone to arrange for the minor victims’ transportation from Charlotte to Myrtle Beach to engage in commercial sex acts for his benefit. Specifically, according to allegations contained in the indictment, the proceeds from the conspiracy would be used to pay Zerrell Fuentes’ bond so he could get out of jail.

 

According to the indictment, Brianna Wright, accompanied by Tanya Fuentes, transported the minor victims from Charotte to Myrtle Beach by car, so the minor victims could engage in commercial sex acts. While in Myrtle Beach, Tanya Fuentes paid for lodging for the two adult women and the minor victims. The indictment also alleges that Brianna Wright facilitated the placement of advertisements on the Internet, advertising the minor victims for commercial sex acts. She also provided her own telephone number on the ads, as a means of communication to arrange “dates” between the minor victims and customers, where the minor victims would be caused to engage in commercial sex acts. Brianna Wright also transported the minor victims to and from the arranged prostitution “dates.”

 

Zerrell Fuentes is currently in custody on a federal firearms violation and will appear in court on the sex trafficking charges. Brianna Wright and Tanya Fuentes will have their court appearances this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Cayer.

The penalty for each of the eight sex trafficking related offenses is a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. Zerrell Fuentes is also facing a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the unrelated firearms offense.

The charges contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The investigation was handled by the FBI, HSI and CMPD. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimlani Ford, of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Charlotte, is prosecuting the case.

 

Updated April 25, 2017