Seven Individuals Charged By Complaint With
CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX: (716) 551-3051
ROCHESTER, N.Y.—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that seven defendants have been charged in four separate criminal complaints with sex trafficking of a minor and conspiracy to sex traffic minors. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison for each victim, a maximum of life, and a $250,000 fine.
Charged by complaint are:
- Stephen Jones, 27
- Kasandra Weeks, 22
- Leeosha Allen, 21
- Martin Pullin, 23
- Thaddeus Grice, 36
- Maraida Echevarria, 25
- Christian Nartey, 23
In addition, Stephen Jones and Kasandra Weeks are charged with trafficking of an adult through the use of force. Maraida Echevarria and Christian Nartey are charged with transporting a minor across state lines to engage in sex trafficking.
“These defendants stand accused of seeking out and preying upon some of the more vulnerable victims in our community,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “Coming from difficult circumstances, victims were lured by the promise of money and drugs, or coerced with violence. Law enforcement will continue its efforts to abolish this modern day form of slavery.”
“It’s a story of threats, intimidation, violence and slavery where young girls are being forced into a world of sex for money,” said James Spero, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Buffalo. “Human trafficking is not something that is happening far away. Young girls and women in your neighborhood are being victimized every day. The threat is everywhere. The allegations in this case are particularly troubling because of the volume of defendants who were accessing these young girls, but it underscores HSI’s commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to search out exploiters who work to victimize very young women and children."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa M. Marangola, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, between June 2013 and March 2014, the defendants targeted and manipulated seven minor victims and two adult victims, many of whom were at-risk and vulnerable, to engage in prostitution activities.
According to the complaints, some victims were located through social media accounts. Defendant Stephen Jones, meanwhile, went to the Department of Social Services or women shelters and waited until girls appearing young in age came outside. According to the complaint, victims were promised quick money and drugs, and on other occasions, threatened with violence. The victims lived with the defendants at hotels and various houses associated with the defendants.
Regarding the sex trafficking, defendants posted daily advertisements using fake photos for the victims on backpage.com and myprovider.com. One advertisement read: “ITS KRISTEN AND ASHLEY!! Ur 2 favorite young GODDESS up all day READY2play!! :-) CALL NOW!! Victims were taken from the Rochester area to Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, Utica, and New Jersey to engage in prostitution activities and avoid detection by law enforcement. To keep control over the victims, the defendants kept the money victims earned from prostitution activities, and limited the victims’ communications with family and friends.
U.S. Attorney Hochul also provided warnings to both children and parents. “The best protection lies in recognizing the scope of the problem. Children and parents should remember common sense tips – all of which begin with ‘T.’”
“Young people, watch your TECH, including internet-connected phones, computers, on-line games and social media sites. The THREAT does not come solely from men, women also may be predators and lookouts for victims. Watch your TALK – strangers look and listen for vulnerable children. TRUST your gut, and always TURN to parents, counsellors and loved ones at any sign of danger.”
“For parents, recognize the THREAT, TALK to your child, and be aware that traffickers most often TARGET the young, lonely, alienated or those who have no one to protect them.”
The criminal complaints are the culmination of an investigation on the part of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Rochester Police Department, under the direction of Chief Michael Ciminelli, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn, the Brighton Police Department, under the direction of Chief Mark Henderson, and the Gates Police Department, under the direction of Chief James Vanbrederode. Additional assistance provided by the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, under the direction of Sandra Doorley.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.