Sex Trafficking Scheme Used Threats, Violence and Coercion to Compel Women into Prostitution in New Orleans and Elsewhere
The Justice Department announced today that Christopher Williams, 31, and Laquentin Brown, 34, both of Memphis, Tennessee, were sentenced to 180 months and 99 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in a sex trafficking scheme that operated out of the Riviera Motel in New Orleans. The sentencing was announced by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite of the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Williams and Brown pleaded guilty on April 20, 2015, and March 4, 2015, respectively, to one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion. Brown also pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transportation for prostitution.
Five additional defendants have pleaded guilty and been sentenced for their roles in the sex trafficking scheme. On May 4, 2016, Granville Robinson, 28, was sentenced to over 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and one count of sex trafficking. On June 8, 2016, Duane Phillips, 31, was sentenced to over 21 years in prison; Anthony Ellis, 27, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and Zacchaeus Taylor, 23, was sentenced to 99 months in prison. Phillips, Ellis and Taylor pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. Ellis and Taylor also pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transportation for prostitution. Also on June 8, 2016, Kanubhai Patel, 75, the former owner of the Rivera Motel, was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine after pleading guilty to benefitting financially from sex trafficking. U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance of the Eastern District of Louisiana scheduled a hearing for July 20, 2016, to determine the amount of restitution owed to the victims.
“The defendants orchestrated an extensive and violent sex trafficking scheme that forever impacted the lives of many young women,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “The Civil Rights Division is unwavering in our commitment to seek justice on behalf of vulnerable victims and hold human traffickers accountable.”
“Today’s sentences culminate one of the most successful human trafficking investigations in our district,” said U.S. Attorney Polite. “However, this case represents just the tip of the iceberg. We will remain vigilant in our efforts to combat modern-day slavery in our area.”
“Human trafficking has become an increasing problem both in Louisiana and across the nation,” said Special Agent in Charge Jeff Sallet of the FBI’s New Orleans Division. “Collectively, the FBI New Orleans Division is working in partnership with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to combat this problem. Human traffickers like these defendants, who continue to prey on vulnerable women and children, will be aggressively investigated by the FBI so the victims may be rescued and the perpetrators brought to justice.”
“Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that ICE Homeland Security Investigations fights as one of its highest priorities via a coordinated global effort with the FBI and our state and local law enforcement partners,” said Special Agent in Charge Raymond R. Parmer Jr. of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) New Orleans. “The results speak for themselves: over the past two years, HSI has doubled its number of human trafficking arrests. HSI will continue to investigate and seek prosecution of these criminals while also ensuring the victims of this terrible crime are rescued and get the care they need.”
During their respective plea hearings and in their respective court filings, Williams and Brown admitted that they, along with their co-defendants Robinson, Phillips and Ellis, conspired to recruit, groom, force, compel and coerce adult women to engage in prostitution, enforcing rules and means of control that included requiring the women to earn a certain amount of money each day, requiring them to turn over the proceeds and prohibiting them from speaking to or looking at other pimps. Williams admitted to intentionally trying to impregnate his victims to make it harder for them to leave him, while some of the other defendants took the victims’ identification cards and documents. Williams also noted that he attempted to avoid visible bruising so that the victims would not draw the attention of the police or scare off prospective customers. Williams, Brown and the other co-conspirators frequently stayed at the Riviera Motel because they knew that the hotel staff would not stop them from pimping women.
The case was investigated jointly by agents from the FBI and HSI New Orleans Field Offices, with assistance from the FBI’s Memphis Field Office. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Christine M. Siscaretti of the Civil Right Division’s Criminal Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia K. Evans of the Eastern District of Louisiana.