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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A federal jury handed down a guilty verdict late on Wednesday, August 14, 2013, for a Charlotte man charged with sex trafficking of a minor, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Juan Brandon Gray-Sommerville, 23, of Charlotte was charged on April 16, 2013, with one count of knowingly obtaining, harboring, providing and transporting a minor to engage in prostitution.
John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division and Chief Rodney D. Monroe, of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) join U.S. Attorney Tompkins in making today’s announcement.
According to filed court documents and testimony presented during the two-day trial, the minor female met Gray-Sommerville through social media in early March 2012. Shortly thereafter, the defendant began exchanging text messages with the minor, encouraging her to meet him. According to court records, on March 13, 2012, Gray-Sommerville and his girlfriend travelled to a town outside of Charlotte to pick up the minor in front of her school. According to trial testimony, the three of them drove back to Charlotte and checked into a motel. Trial testimony established that the defendant took pictures of the minor at the motel and created an online advertisement on Backpage.com to recruit clients to engage in sex acts with her. Court records indicate that the defendant drove the minor to have sex for money with two clients. According to court documents and witness testimony, law enforcement located the minor when they responded her 9-1-1 call, after Gray-Sommerville abandoned her fearing police detection. Court records indicate that during the investigation, an FBI computer forensic examiner found on Gray-Sommerville’s computer the picture of the minor the defendant posted on Backpage.com. Investigators also recovered text messages the defendant had exchanged with the minor using his cell phone.
In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney Tompkins stated, “Gray-Sommerville prayed upon a vulnerable young girl and exploited her in the worst possible way. Sex trafficking is a reprehensible crime that dehumanizes victims and strips them of their dignity. My Office will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute sex traffickers who profit from prostituting minors.”
“The defendant lured a young girl away from her family with promises of money, but instead sold her as a sex slave. It is inconceivable that someone would sexually exploit a child for financial gain, but it does happen and the FBI will aggressively pursue those who victimize our children,” said John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the FBI.
“The verdict sends a loud message that these type of disgraceful offenses against children will not be tolerated in our community. We will continue to work with our federal partners in our efforts to protect children,” said Chief Monroe, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.
Gray-Sommerville has been in local federal custody since April 2013. At sentencing, he faces a mandatory minimum term of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date has not been set yet.
The investigation of the case was handled by the FBI assisted by CMPD. The prosecution of the case is handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimlani Ford, of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Charlotte.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.