TAMPA, Fla. — A federal jury convicted a Florida man Wednesday on charges of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, namely Oxycodone, Dilaudid and Morphine, and sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion. The conviction follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the assistance of the Clearwater Police Department and members of the Clearwater Area Human Trafficking Task Force.
Andrew Blane Fields, 62, of Lutz, faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison and a statutory maximum of life in prison on each of the five sex trafficking convictions.
In a superseding indictment returned Aug. 22, 2013, a federal grand jury charged Fields with engaging in a sex trafficking scheme whereby he controlled his victims by supplying them with highly addictive controlled substances and by using their fear of withdrawal symptoms to force them into prostitution for his profit. At trial, the government presented evidence that the defendant recruited vulnerable young women who were engaging in prostitution or performing at strip clubs and then rapidly escalated their drug use into full-blown addiction. Other evidence included the testimony of five victims of the defendant's scheme, quantities of narcotics seized from the defendant's possession and images of the defendant surreptitiously distributing narcotics to a hospitalized victim.
During the execution of a federal search warrant, law enforcement officers recovered thousands of prescription pills from Fields' residence. As a result, Fields was charged by criminal complaint March 20, 2013, and by indictment April 18, 2013.
"Sex trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes our special agents investigate and HSI is committed to protecting those who cannot protect themselves," said Susan McCormick special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. "These cases are extremely difficult to investigate and prosecute and it would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of our special agents and law enforcement partners."
"This defendant preyed on vulnerable members of our society--young women living in the shadows and on the margins, struggling to get by," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels of the Civil Rights Division. "Using false promises to lure them in, he cruelly exploited them for his own profit, destroying them with drugs and selling them for sex, using highly addictive illegal drugs to hold them under his control. Our Constitution guarantees freedom from involuntary servitude and slavery to all members of our society, and we will continue to enforce our human trafficking laws to restore freedom and dignity to victims of modern day slavery."
"Today's verdict provides a measure of justice for the vulnerable victims this defendant systematically forced into prostitution," said Acting U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III. "The United States Attorney's Office and the Civil Rights Division are committed to prosecuting all human trafficking, regardless of the form it takes."
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Josephine W. Thomas and Trial Attorney William E. Nolan with the Civil Rights Division's Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.