BUFFALO, N.Y. — A New York man was convicted after a jury trial before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara of sex trafficking by force, sex trafficking of a minor by force and sex trafficking of a minor. When sentenced, he faces up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conviction is the result of an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and local law enforcement agencies.
Between winter 2010 and August 2012, Kenneth Graham, 25, of Amherst, N.Y., recruited, promoted and profited from the prostitution activities of two minor girls knowing that the girls were under the age of 18. Graham also recruited, promoted and profited from a third victim, a woman in her 20s. Graham placed advertisements on the website "backpage." One ad read, "Amazingly Sexy Sweet Petite Companion 20 working out of the airport area." The acts took place in various hotels in the towns of Amherst and Cheektowaga, N.Y., and customers were charged between $100 and $200.
According to evidence presented by the government, two of the victims were assaulted and threatened by the defendant. One victim testified that Graham told her "I'll kill you" and a second victim testified that Graham brandished a weapon at her. Under cross examination, the defendant admitted to pushing one of the victims into a wall and over a piece of furniture.
"This is the first sex trafficking conviction at trial in the Western District of New York," said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr., Western District of New York. "Based on charges recently filed by our office, the problem of human trafficking appears to be growing but so too is our ability to investigate and prosecute these crimes. In the past year, we have filed charges against seven defendants who are accused of victimizing a total of 12 victims. Freedom is a basic human right and individuals should not be forced into actions or behaviors that are both illegal and can cause long term physical, psychological and emotional damage."
"Today's guilty verdict is the result of the great partnership HSI has with law enforcement in Western New York in our unyielding resolve to bring human traffickers to justice," said James C. Spero, special agent in charge of HSI Buffalo. "Trafficking children for sex is one the most deplorable crimes our HSI special agents investigate. My agency is committed to protecting those who cannot protect themselves. These cases are extremely difficult to investigate - and prosecute - and would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of our special agents and attorneys."
The conviction is the result of an investigation on the part of HSI, Amherst Police Department, Cheektowaga Police Department. and Buffalo Police Department. Additional support was provided by the Western District of New York Human Trafficking Task Force and Alliance. Anyone who has knowledge of any form of trafficking is encouraged to contact the task force or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 888-373-7888.
Sentencing has been scheduled for May 8, 2013, at 12:30 p.m. before Judge Arcara.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert C. Moscati and Kathleen A. Lynch, Western District of New York, are prosecuting this case on behalf of the U.S. government.