PHOTO: Five of the six defendants charged in the indictment live in Queens. Courtesy of DOJ
By Forum Staff
Six men, including five borough residents, last week were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, sex trafficking of minors, and conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce and use facilities in interstate commerce to promote sex trafficking, according to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
The indictment charging Nashean Folds, David Hightower, Gregory Luck, Tremain Moore, Corey Roper, and Antwone Washington was unsealed last Thursday morning. Roper is also charged with kidnapping a female victim in or about February 2016.
Folds, 20, is from Staten Island; Luck, 20, Washington, 24, Roper, 24, Hightower, 23, and Moore, 22, are all from Queens. Hightower and Moore were arrested on June 13, pursuant to a criminal complaint containing related charges and have been in federal custody since that time, Bharara said. Luck, Folds, and Roper were arrested last Wednesday. Washington remains at large.
According to the indictment, beginning in or about February 2015 through the present, each of the suspects agreed to engage in sex trafficking of minor female victims, and actually did traffic at least four minor female victims in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, and also agreed to travel in interstate commerce and use facilities of interstate commerce to promote their sex trafficking activities.
“The six defendants in this case allegedly trafficked minors for the purpose of using them as sex workers,” Bharara said. “The defendants’ alleged crime is particularly insidious in that they selected the victims specifically because of their vulnerable nature and their inability to fend for themselves. This office, along with our law enforcement partners at the FBI and NYPD, will continue to find, investigate and prosecute those engaged in sex trafficking.”
As explained in the complaint, Bharara noted, sex traffickers like the defendants typically recruit vulnerable minor victims who lack education, a stable home, family support, and who have suffered past physical and emotional trauma. Sex traffickers often use their minor victims’ need for shelter, stability, and affection as a means to sexually exploit their victims for their own financial gain. Similarly, such sex traffickers or pimps often prey on young adult women who suffer many of the same vulnerabilities. Once these sex traffickers have recruited victims, they advertise them on websites dedicated to “escort” services and on classifieds websites. To evade detection by law enforcement, advertisements are posted in the adult entertainment section of the website and purport to offer individuals as mere escorts, but the advertisements signal that they are, in fact, offering individuals for sale for commercial sex acts.
It is also common for domestic sex traffickers to set rules for their victims, control their actions, and take their earnings, Bharara added. Often, if a victim violates one of the rules set by a sex trafficker, punishment is meted out in the form of physical violence. A violation of the rules could include, among other things, failing to answer the trafficker’s phone calls, leaving the area where the victim is supposed to be soliciting or servicing customers, not making enough money for the day, or holding back money from the sex trafficker.
If convicted, all of the suspects face a maximum term of life in prison.