Roanoke Man Sentencing on Sex Trafficking, Methamphetamine, and Gun Charges
ROANOKE, VIRGINIA – A Roanoke man, who used force and the threat of force to intimidate women and force them to engage in sex trafficking, was sentenced today in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Roanoke on federal drug, gun, and sex trafficking charges, United States Attorney John P. Fishwick said.
Brandon Scott Thomas, a.k.a. “Gambino,” 25, of Roanoke, previously pled guilty to one count of conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine, two counts of sex trafficking by fraud, force or coercion, one count of conspiring to commit sex trafficking by fraud, force or coercion, and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. Today in District Court, Thomas was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison.
“Brandon Thomas preyed on the drug addictions of young women and used physical abuse and intimidation to force them to engage in sex trafficking” United States Attorney Fishwick said today. “We are proud of the work law enforcement did to bring this defendant to justice and hopefully bring these victims of sex-trafficking to a brighter future.”
“Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes we investigate. Brandon Thomas enslaved women in his prostitution scheme by exploiting their vulnerabilities,” said Special Agent in Charge Clark E. Settles for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Washington Field Office. “Our HSI special agents and law enforcement partners will continue to fight the good fight, rescuing victims and putting traffickers behind bars.”
According to evidence presented at previous hearings by Assistant United States Attorneys Donald R. Wolthuis and Laura Day Rottenborn, Thomas conspired with others, including co-defendant Josh Voress, from at least July 2015 until his arrest in March 2016 to distribute heroin, methamphetamine, and other drugs, and he periodically possessed firearms in connection with his drug trafficking.
Thomas admitted that he ran a prostitution business involving multiple women that operated out of hotels in Roanoke and Charlottesville. To promote the business, Thomas posted prostitution advertisements on the website backpage.com. Thomas admitted that several of the women who worked for him engaged in prostitution as a result of his fraud, force, and/or coercion. Thomas admitted that he prostituted women identified as V1, V3, and V4 in Roanoke and elsewhere in the Western District of Virginia, and admitted that he beat and threatened to beat the women, and took advantage of their drug dependencies, to compel their prostitution services. Evidence was presented that Thomas targeted disenfranchised, drug-addicted women and exploited their heroin additions by withholding drugs and having them go dope-sick until they performed a sufficient number of prostitution services. Although the circumstances varied, women under the control of Thomas were induced or compelled into performing multiple prostitution encounters a day. If they did not work to his satisfaction, he would threaten them and in some instances physically harm them.
Thomas admitted that beginning in September 2015 and continuing through February 2016, he was physically abusive to V4 on a regular basis. He admitted to slapping, punching, and choking her. On at least one occasion, Thomas admitted he held a knife to the throat of V4. On a separate occasion, Thomas used a taser on V4 and also beat V4 while she was pregnant. Many of these actions took place in front of other victims.
In addition, Thomas’ methamphetamine source, co-defendant Josh Voress, 40, of Beverly Hills, California, pled guilty in October to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. Voress admitted to being one of the sources of methamphetamine for a conspiracy that operated in Roanoke that included Thomas and co-defendant Tyler Johnson.
At the time of Voress’ indictment by a federal grand jury in the Western District of Virginai in Roanoke, he was also under investigation by federal authorities in Pennsylvania. As part of his plea agreement in the Western District of Virginia, Voress agreed to plead guilty to additional methamphetamine charges out of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and to have those charges consolidated with the federal charges in Roanoke.
According to evidence presented previously by Assistant United States Attorney Rottenborn, Voress met drug customers via the website Tumblr. Voress admitted that from November 20015 and February 2016 he sold pounds of crystal methamphetamine to Johnson via USPS or FexEx. Voress came to Roanoke to meet Johnson and sell him crystal methamphetamine and/or collect payment from Johnson at least twice.
The investigation of the case was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Roanoke City Police Department, the Roanoke County Police Department, the Salem Police Department, and the Virginia State Police. Assistant United States Attorneys Donald R. Wolthuis and Laura Day Rottenborn prosecuted the case for the United States.