Arthur James Chappell, aka AJ and J, of no known address, was indicted April 4, and was convicted Oct. 24 of the following charges:
- two counts of sex trafficking a minor;
- one count of possessing child pornography;
- one count of conspiracy to possess child pornography;
- one count of conspiracy to produce child pornography;
- two counts of enticing travel for prostitution;
- two counts of transportation with intent to engage in prostitution;
- one count of conspiracy to enticing travel for prostitution; and
- one count of conspiracy to transport with intent to engage in prostitution.
"Trafficking children for sex, and producing and possessing child pornography, are among the most deplorable crimes our HSI special agents investigate," said Michael E. Feinberg, special agent in charge of HSI St. Paul. "HSI has a very active program to identify, investigate and pursue prosecution for such heinous criminals."
"Approximately 20 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, with far too many of them mere minors forced into the sex trade," said U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones. "The U.S. Department of Justice and this office, along with our local, state and federal investigative partners, are committed to pursuing, apprehending and prosecuting those who victimize these young people through prostitution and the production of child pornography. And we encourage the public to be vigilant as well. Help us rescue these young people and bring to justice those who have harmed them."
The evidence presented at trial proved that from August 2006 through July 2007, Chappell ran a multi-state prostitution ring. In the summer of 2007, he recruited two girls under the age of 18 to engage in commercial sex acts as part of his business. One witness testified that Chappell had threatened and sexually assaulted her.
In addition, Chappell possessed images of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. He also conspired with others to possess such images, and induced or coerced a child in order to produce child pornography. Chappell promoted his prostitution operation through Craigslist and Backpage websites by purchasing online ads where nude photographs of the girls were posted.
In June 2007, Bloomington, Minn., police conducted surveillance at a hotel near the Mall of America where they discovered four women in a hotel room rented to Chappell. In July 2007, Chappell also enticed or coerced two women to travel to different states to engage in prostitution. Between August 2006 and July 2007, he conspired to persuade other women to also travel to other states to engage in prostitution.
When sentenced, Chappell faces the following potential maximum penalties:
- life in prison for sex trafficking a minor, and for conspiracy to produce child pornography;
- 20 years on each count of enticing travel for prostitution;
- 10 years on each count of possessing child pornography, and for conspiracy to possess child pornography;
- 10 years on each count of transportation with intent to engage in prostitution; and
- five years for conspiracy to enticing travel for prostitution, and conspiracy to transport with intent to engage in prostitution.
A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Recently, Yuri Fedotov, the head of the United Nations' Office on Drugs and Crime reported to those attending a U.N. General Assembly meeting that an estimated 2.4 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking at any one time, with 80 percent of them being exploited as sex slaves. He also said about $32 billion is earned collectively every year by the criminals who operate human trafficking networks. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked within the U.S. each year.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678.