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April 11, 2023Norfolk, VA, United StatesChild Exploitation

HSI Norfolk investigation leads to Virginia man’s conviction for sex trafficking, production of child pornography

NORFOLK, Va. — An investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Norfolk and the Virginia Beach Police Department resulted in the conviction of a 40-year-old Portsmouth man for sex trafficking and production of child sexual abuse material. On April 6, a federal jury convicted Pierre De Romeo Smith of seven charges, including sex trafficking, production of child pornography, possession with intent to distribute controlled substances and unlawful possession of a firearm.

According to the HSI Norfolk investigation, Smith met his 16-year-old victim the same day he took sexually explicit and suggestive photographs of her, including some where she posed with the muzzle of a shotgun in her mouth.

“Pierre De Romeo Smith’s crimes are disturbing,” said HSI Washington, D.C. Special Agent in Charge Derek W. Gordon. “Not only did he victimize a 16-year-old girl, but he threatened her with a firearm and forced her to commit sexual acts on strangers for his own financial gain. HSI will continue to collaborate with our local law enforcement partners to ensure deviant predators like Smith cannot prey on the communities that we protect.”

Smith posted the pictures of the victim on a commercial sex website, advertising her services for commercial sex. For the following three weeks, Smith continued to make her available for commercial sex — with as many as 30 “dates” a night — throughout the Hampton Roads area. He threatened her with a firearm, gave her amphetamines to keep her awake, and confiscated the money she earned from her dates.

On May 19, 2022, the Virginia Beach Police Department conducted an undercover commercial sex operation at a hotel in Virginia Beach where they encountered Smith’s 16-year-old victim.

When interviewing her at the hotel, detectives observed a text message on her phone from the Smith stating that he was there. Authorities observed Smith arriving at the hotel’s parking garage and arrested him. Authorities found multiple controlled substances in his vehicle, including fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine, and a Glock handgun, which the defendant was prohibited from possessing as a convicted felon.

Smith faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years and a maximum sentence of life in federal prison. He is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 9.

This investigation was conducted by HSI Norfolk and the Virginia Beach Police Department with significant assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

This case was investigated by the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force, a collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecutors, as well as nongovernmental organizations, working together to combat human trafficking in the Hampton Roads region.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.

Anyone with information regarding the sexual exploitation of children is encouraged to provide their tips to law enforcement. HSI has a nationwide tip line to report crime by calling 866-DHS-2423 (866-347-2423).

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.