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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

North Carolina man convicted of running violent sex trafficking enterprise

CHARLOTTE N.C. — A federal jury returned a verdict Monday convicting a North Carolina man of two counts of sex trafficking, one count of kidnapping, one count of production of child pornography, one count of witness tampering and five counts of promoting a prostitution business enterprise.

Shahid Hassan Muslim, aka Sharp, faces a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison. His conviction follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with the assistance from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Police Department.

Evidence presented during the four-day trial, including the testimony of five victims, revealed that Muslim had operated an extensive sex trafficking enterprise in Charlotte and other cities between at least 2010 and the time of his arrest in November 2013. Muslim recruited young women and girls from the Charlotte area, some as young as 16 years old, and advertised them for prostitution on the Internet. He recruited them using the idea that they would be part of a family when they had none. Muslim demanded all of their money and used extreme violence to control the young women and girls. As one witness explained, Muslim never hit the victims in the face because it would damage his "merchandise."

The evidence further showed that Muslim kidnapped one of the victims and brutally beat her after she left and reported him to the police. Witnesses testified that he lured her to a hotel pretending to be a prostitution customer. When she arrived, Muslim attacked her while dressed in black and wearing a mask in the shape of a skull. He shoved her into a trunk and had her transported to his house, where he handcuffed her and bound her feet and continued to beat her. Muslim then put the victim in the shower, while still handcuffed, turned on the cold water, and left her overnight. Ultimately, she managed to escape and flee to a neighbor's home for help.

Muslim's control over the women and girls extended to when he was in custody on both state and federal charges. He convinced the victim involved in the kidnapping to submit a false affidavit declaring his innocence to state authorities, which resulted in the dismissal of those charges. He further harassed a victim in the federal case to submit a false affidavit taking ownership of a sexually explicit video that he produced of her when she was only 16 years old.

"This defendant targeted vulnerable young women and girls and exploited them for his own profit, using a brutal scheme of power and control" said Acting Assistant Attorney General Molly Moran, Civil Rights Division. "This disregard of the rights and dignity of some of the most vulnerable members of our community is intolerable in a nation founded on freedom and individual rights, and the Civil Rights Division is committed to bringing human traffickers to justice."

"Muslim preyed upon young and vulnerable women, and with the promise of a better life, he lured them into his criminal enterprise," said U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins. "Once in, Muslim used unspeakable violence to control and exploit these women and girls for his financial gain. We will continue to aggressively prosecute those who engage in this illegal business that dehumanizes women and strips them of their dignity."

"This defendant is one of the most violent and inhumane human traffickers we have ever encountered in North Carolina," said acting Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Spradlin of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta. "Thankfully, by working with the FBI we were able to get this monster off of the streets and begin the process of repairing the damage he has inflicted on these victims' lives."

"Shahid Hassan Muslim promised his victims the loving support of a family, instead he controlled them through beatings, fear, and intimidation," said FBI Special Agent in Charge John. A. Strong. "Sex trafficking victims are traumatized and may be unsure of where to turn for help. The FBI devotes a significant amount of resources to recovery efforts and to hold those accountable who sacrifice another person's civil rights and freedom for their own profit."

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimlani M. Ford for the Western District of North Carolina and Trial Attorney Benjamin J. Hawk of the Civil Rights Division's Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.