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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, August 24, 2020

West Virginia Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Sex Trafficking, Distributing Fatal Doses of Fentanyl

HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA – Kendall Demarko Wysinger, 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 sentenced today to life in prison. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen, David W. Archey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division, and Jesse Fong, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Washington Field Office made the announcement today following Wysinger’s sentencing hearing.

“Sex traffickers enslave and traumatize their victims for financial gain.  This is why the Department of Justice has made these cases a top priority.” First Assistant United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar said today. “Today’s sentence shows our office’s commitment to investigating and prosecuting anyone who commits these awful crimes. I am grateful to the FBI, DEA, and the numerous state and local agencies involved with the I-81 Human Trafficking Task Force who worked tirelessly to bring justice to the victims in this case.”

“We are very thankful for our DEA Washington Division DEA agents and intel analysts who worked this case, and for the teamwork of our federal and local partners in keeping our community safer from horrific human sex trafficking and violent drug crime, such as this,” Special Agent in Charge Fong said today. “This case is a great example of how we work, every day, alongside our law enforcement and community partners to bring such egregious criminals to justice.”

“The investigation of human trafficking is a high priority for the FBI. Through the FBI's I-81 Human Trafficking Task Force, law enforcement in the tristate area leverages resources, identifies perpetrators and assists victims with recovery and the rebuilding of their lives,” SAC Archey said today. “The sentencing today of Mr. Wysinger is the culmination of the work and dedication of the task force and the Department. We encourage anyone who is a victim of trafficking or suspects someone is being trafficked to contact law enforcement and seek assistance through victim services immediately.”

According to evidence presented at Wysinger’s January 2019 jury trial, the defendant 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, Shenandoah County, Virginia, and cities in West Virginia and Maryland, 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, his charges for posting ads online, and 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 fentanyl poisoning.  Wysinger was with both victims when they overdosed and left the victims unconscious in a Winchester motel room. 

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s I-81 Human Trafficking Task Force (I-81 HTTF), the Luray Police Department, and the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force (NWRDGTF).  Assistant United States 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.

 

Updated August 26, 2020