May 21, 2009

A Man And A Woman Charged With Child Sex Trafficking In Baltimore, Maryland

ABC2 News
Two Charged With Child Sex Trafficking
Reported by: Christian Schaffer
May 19, 2009

A man and a woman from Reisterstown are in custody -- charged with running a prostitution ring involving teen-age girls.

Investigators say the couple used the Craigslist web site to sell sex with those girls -- and they say customers took them up on the offer at locations in Baltimore and Howard Counties.

Prosecutors say the suspects used three girls -- a 17 year old and two 15 year olds. Both of the suspects made their first appearance in federal court in Baltimore Monday afternoon, to face child sex trafficking charges.

Experts say many prostitutes started out as child-victims of sex traffickers. ‘Most of the people who you see on a corner who look like they're making a choice, actually were sex trafficking victims as children,’ said Sidney Ford, who runs the 'You Are Never Alone' center in Baltimore, which assists women who have been working as prostitutes. She says the average age they start is 11 to 13.

‘Most of the time they're brought in by an adult -- often it's a female adult -- who gets their trust, who invites them to a party, who invites them to something fun,’ she said. ‘She's told that the things that have been bought for need to be paid for, and then she finds herself out on a prostitution strip or in a brothel, or otherwise paying off that debt through prostitution.’

In the most recent case, prosecutors say the two suspects -- Byron Thompson and Lea Bell -- lived in an apartment in Reisterstown. A neighbor says they used to lock a teen-age girl out on the balcony.

They are both charged with sex trafficking of a minor, and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor. A conviction could bring anywhere from 10 years to life in prison. ‘When people realize that they can face a mandatory sentence of 10 years each time they're involved in trafficking a child for sex, we think that will have an impact,’ said Rod Rosenstein, the US Attorney for Baltimore.

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