U.S. Attorney's Office Observes National Human Trafficking Prevention Month
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of North Carolina
January 11th Is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day
Human trafficking is a crime involving the exploitation of a person for labor, services, or commercial sex, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion that is physical and/or psychological. The exploitation of a minor for commercial sex is human trafficking regardless of whether any form of force, fraud, or coercion is used by the trafficker.
“Human trafficking is a despicable crime that is happening in our cities, our towns, and our communities,” said U.S. Attorney King. “Our notable federal prosecutions speak to our commitment to combat human trafficking and bring traffickers to justice. But there’s more work to be done. That’s why today, and every day, we are committed to working with our law enforcement partners, victim service providers, government entities, private businesses, and the community to combine and strengthen our anti-trafficking efforts. Together, we will ensure that traffickers who exploit human beings for profit are brought to justice, and that survivors receive the protection and assistance they need and deserve.”
To enhance awareness and educate the community about human trafficking, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has released a Public Service Announcement on how to identify potential trafficking situations and where to report suspected human trafficking activity.
2022 & 2023 Human Trafficking Prosecutions
In 2022 and 2023, the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s anti-trafficking efforts resulted in notable prosecutions that have led to federal charges, convictions, and lengthy prison sentences against individual traffickers:
U.S. v. Batten and King – In December 2023, a federal jury convicted Tawaan Batten, 33, of Charlotte, of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor, sex trafficking of a minor, and transportation of a minor with the intent to engage in commercial sexual activity. His co-defendant, Kristi Heather King, 33, of Locust, N.C. has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sex traffic a minor. From July 2021 to December 2021, Batten engaged in a conspiracy to sex traffic a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina and South Carolina. Batten, who was at times assisted by King, posted advertisements of the minor victim on commercial sex websites, arranged the minor victim’s sexual encounters with customers, and booked hotel rooms where the encounters took place. Batten kept almost all of the money the victim earned from these commercial sexual encounters and used various physical and psychological ways to control the minor victim, including branding the minor victim with tattoos. Both Batten and King are in federal custody and are awaiting sentencing.
U.S. v. Reynolds – In May 2023, a federal grand jury in Charlotte indicted Yusef Reynolds, 32, of Delaware, with sex trafficking of a minor by force, fraud, or coercion, production of child pornography, transportation of a minor with the intent to engage in commercial sexual activity, and commission of a felony involving a minor while required to register as a sex offender. The indictment alleges that, between December 30, 2021, and January 25, 2022, in Mecklenburg County and elsewhere, Reynolds sex trafficked a victim who was not yet 18-years-old. It is furthered alleged that Reynolds engaged in the sex trafficking of the minor after he was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware for a federal sex trafficking crime involving a 17-year-old victim. The charges against Reynolds are pending and the defendant remains in federal custody.
U.S. v. Hasty – In March 2023, Milton Antonio Hasty, a/k/a “Montana,” 31, of Salisbury, N.C., was sentenced to 21 years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release for sex trafficking of a minor. From January 22, 2019, to June 5, 2019, Hasty sex trafficked an underage female, knowing the victim was a minor, for his financial benefit. Hasty met the victim through a mutual female acquaintance, and, upon meeting the victim, he took photographs of the victim, posted escort advertisements online, booked hotel rooms, and arranged the victim’s sexual encounters with customers. For over five months, Hasty and the minor victim traveled to various cities throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia, where the victim engaged in commercial sex acts. Hasty set up sexual encounters for the minor victim twenty-four hours a day and seven-days a week and kept almost all of the money the victim earned from these commercial sexual encounters.
U.S. v. Blair – On June 27, 2022, Dajuan Akeem Blair, 26, of Charlotte, was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for sex trafficking of a minor. Blair was convicted of causing a minor female to engage in prostitution. The victim was a 16-year-old runaway, and she was introduced to Blair by a mutual friend, also a teenager, who had previously dated the defendant. Blair knew that both females were minors. On December 26, 2018, Blair rented a motel room in Charlotte, where he took pictures of the minors and used the pictures to advertise the minors for sex online. Over the next two days, Blair arranged sexual encounters for the minors and set the prices for those encounters. Blair then took a portion of the minor victim’s earnings from the commercial sex.
U.S. v. Luong – On June 15, 2022, Thuy Tien Luong, 38, of Charlotte, was ordered to serve 15 years in prison after a federal jury found that the defendant compelled the labor of one of her nail technicians at a salon she owned and operated in Davidson, N.C. From October 2016 to June 2018, Luong compelled the victim’s labor by, among other things, physically assaulting the victim, threatening to ruin the victim’s reputation with her family, and falsely claiming that the victim owed Luong a fictitious debt.
U.S. v. McIllwain – On January 26, 2022, Simone Cherelle McIllwain, 30, of Charlotte, was sentenced to more than 19 years in prison for sex trafficking of a minor from December 2, 2019, to December 19, 2019. The minor victim was introduced to McIllwain through a mutual acquaintance, and shortly thereafter McIllwain began to advertise the victim online for commercial sex. McIllwain also arranged for the minor to engage in sex acts at McIllwain’s hotel room in Charlotte and the defendant kept a portion of the proceeds. At the time of the offense, McIllwain was on supervised release for a 2014 federal conviction in Florida, for transporting a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity.
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If you believe you are the victim of human trafficking or have information about a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
Specialists are available to answer calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also send a text to 233733 or submit a tip online.
You can also contact the Charlotte Office of the FBI at 704-672-6100, or your local law enforcement agency.
Updated January 11, 2024