NYLON – A total of seven people have been charged in four separate criminal complaints with sex trafficking of a minor and conspiracy to sex traffic minors.
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According to a press release from the office of U.S. Attorney William Hochul, Jr., Stephen Jones, 27, Kasandra Weeks, 22, Leeosha Allen, 21, Martin Pullin, 23, Thaddeus Grice, 36, Maraida Echevarria, 25, and Christian Nartey, 23, could potentially face a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison for each of their victims and a maximum of life, plus a $250,000 fine.
“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.”
Jones and Weeks are further charged with Trafficking of an Adult Through the Use of Force. Echevarria and Nartey are also charged with Transporting a Minor Across State Lines to Engage in Sex Trafficking.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa 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 and women’s shelters and waited until girls appearing young in age came outside. 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.
“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 Homeland Security Investigations in 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.”
The criminal complaints are the culmination of an investigation by Special Agent in Charge James Spero of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Chief Michael Ciminelli of the Rochester Police Department, Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Chief Mark Henderson of the Brighton Police Department, and Chief James Vanbrederode of the Gates Police Department. Additional assistance provided by the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, under the direction of Sandra Doorley.
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