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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Martinsburg, West Virginia Man Convicted of Sex Trafficking, Distributing Fatal Dose of Fentanyl and Evidence Tampering

Harrisonburg, VIRGINIA – A Martinsburg, West Virginia, man, who used heroin as a means to control numerous women he trafficked as part of a commercial prostitution ring that operated in the Western District of Virginia, and elsewhere, was convicted this week following a jury trial in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen made the announcement.

Kendall Demarko Wysinger, 42, was convicted on January 14, 2019, of one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, one count of interstate transportation for prostitution, one count of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death, one count of distribution of fentanyl resulting in serious bodily injury, and one count of evidence tampering, following a six-day jury trial. At sentencing, Wysinger faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum statutory penalty of life.

“An individual who preyed on vulnerable victims and destroyed numerous lives through opioid distribution and sex trafficking will now spend the better part of his life in federal prison,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today.  “We are extremely grateful for the hard work and persistence of the FBI, the Virginia State Police, and our numerous local law-enforcement partners in bringing him to justice.” 

“The I-81 Human Trafficking Task Force continues to work vigorously to identify and bring to trial the perpetrators of these heinous crimes; and partner with victim service providers to ensure victims are able to obtain the necessary care to recover and rebuild their lives,” said FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge, MaryJo Thomas.

According to evidence presented at trial, Wysinger operated a prostitution ring with at least six victims in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. Through the course of the conspiracy, Wysinger used heroin to coerce his victims into engaging in commercial sex, and employed threats and intimidation to ensure he maintained power and control over those victims.  Wysinger routinely advertised these victims for commercial sex using online classified ads in Winchester, Virginia, and Shenandoah County, Virginia, and used social media accounts to target and recruit women into his sex-trafficking operation. The defendant demanded his victims provide him nearly all of the money they received from commercial sex in order to pay their drug debts to him and his charges for transporting them to prostitution dates.

On one occasion, the heroin Wysinger distributed resulted in two overdoses. Wysinger gave what he said was heroin to one victim of his sex trafficking ring and her friend. The substance was actually fentanyl, a far more powerful synthetic opioid, and both victims overdosed after ingesting it. One victim died as a result of the fentanyl poisoning.  Wysinger was with both victims when they overdosed and destroyed the evidence from the crime scene. 

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s I-81 Human Trafficking Task Force (I-81 HTTF), the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force (NWRDGTF).  Assistant United States Attorneys Erin M. Kulpa and Rachel Swartz prosecuted the case for the United States.

The I-81 HTTF is a collaborative effort of law enforcement and community partners focused on identifying instances of human trafficking along the I-81 corridor in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland; prosecuting those responsible; and, providing assistance to the victims impacted by these crimes.  The I-81 HTTF includes law enforcement from the counties of Frederick, Clarke, and Shenandoah as well as the cities and towns of Front Royal, Hagerstown, and Frederick, Maryland and Lord Fairfax Community College.

The NWRDGTF uses the combined efforts of local, state, and federal agencies to actively pursue those groups or individuals who manufacture, distribute, or sell illegal narcotics.  The NWRDGTF is comprised of the Virginia State Police, the Winchester Police Department, the Front Royal Police Department, the Strasburg Police Department, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, the Page County Sheriff’s Office, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, and the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office.

Topic(s): 
Human Trafficking
Updated January 16, 2019