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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Couple indicted in sex trafficking case involving young girls

BALTIMORE - A federal grand jury has indicted Byron Thompson, aka "B," 25, and Lea Shawnay Bell, aka "Ebony," 28, of Reisterstown, Md., on charges of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor and sex trafficking of a minor, announced U. S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. The indictment was returned on May 14, 2009, and unsealed today. The defendants are scheduled to have an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore May 19 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan K. Gauvey. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took part in the investigation that led to the indictment.

"Maryland's human trafficking task force has zero tolerance for child prostitution," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "Everyone involved in charging or paying for sex with children should be on notice that law enforcement agents and prosecutors are standing by to send them to federal prison."

According to the four count indictment, at various times from January to April 2009, Thompson and Bell recruited, harbored and transported three minor girls to engage in sex for pay. The indictment alleges that the defendants provided the minors with marijuana, as well as supplied them with clothing, food, shelter and condoms. The indictment charges that from January through April 2009, the defendants placed postings on Craigslist advertising that one of the minors, who was born in 1991, would provide sexual services for a fee.

The indictment alleges that in March 2009, the defendants directed the other two minors, who were both born in 1994, that they would engage in sex acts for which the defendants would receive payment and instructed them on the pricing for different sexual activities. The indictment alleges that the defendants took the three minors to a motel in Baltimore County to engage in commercial sex acts. The defendants were paid in exchange for the minors performing those acts. The defendants then drove the three minors to a truck stop in Jessup, Md., for the same purpose, but the girls were rescued by police before engaging in any further sexual activity.

The defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy and a maximum sentence of life in prison for sex trafficking.

The case was investigated by the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, which was formed in 2007 to discover and rescue victims of human trafficking while identifying and prosecuting offenders. Members include federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as victim service providers and local community members U. S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised ICE and the Baltimore County Police Department for their investigative work. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Solette A. Magnelli and Judson Mihok, are prosecuting the case.