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April 15, 2022Baltimore, MD, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

ICE HSI Baltimore-led investigation results in lengthy sentences for 2 Marylanders who undertook a kidnapping and sex trafficking conspiracy

BALTIMORE, Md. - An investigation led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore field office netted two convictions and lengthy prison sentences for a pair of Marylanders involved in an intricate kidnapping and sex trafficking conspiracy.

The United States Attorney’s office awarded Joshua Lankford, 33, and Lakeya Aldridge, 41, both of Federalsburg, Maryland to 17 years and nine years in federal prison respectively for their roles in the offense. The pair used drugs to control their victim, and later threatened to kill her in order to prevent her from providing testimony at their trial. Lankford, who led and organized the conspiracy was sentenced on April 8, and Aldridge was sentenced on April 14.

According to the HSI Baltimore investigation, Lankford induced the victim, who suffered from drug addiction, to travel from Maryland to Delaware to engage in prostitution and transported her across state lines to engage in commercial sex acts.

“Joshua Lankford’s crimes were nothing short of horrific; he kidnapped and victimized a vulnerable woman then plotted to kill her to save himself,” said Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso, of HSI Baltimore. “The atrocities of his crimes are clearly reflected in the severity of his sentence. HSI Baltimore remains committed to investigating human trafficking organizations as they prey upon the most vulnerable populations in our communities.”

Knowing of the victim’s drug addiction, Lankford lured her into performing commercial sex acts at his direction by falsely promising the victim that he would help her buy a house, make more money, and regain custody of her son. Lankford also told the victim that she would have to give all of the money she made from commercial sex acts to him. Lankford continued to make false promises to her in order to compel her to engage in commercial sex acts for his benefit for approximately two days.

Lankford recruited Aldridge and two other accomplices to engage in his sex trafficking conspiracy. Aldridge helped maintain the victim, and Lankford informed the victim that the co-conspirators would manage her when he was not physically present.

Between October 25, 2018, and October 27, 2018, Lankford coerced the victim to perform commercial sex acts at two motels in Seaford, Delaware. After meeting with clients, the victim was required to give the money she made to Lankford or his co-conspirators. On October 29, 2018, the co-conspirators drove the victim back to Maryland where she continued to engage in commercial sex acts and provided all funds she was paid to the conspirators.

After one commercial sex act, the victim returned to the co-conspirators and gave them the money she had collected. The co-conspirators then yelled at the victim for not making enough money. Fearing for her safety, the victim tried to escape by attempting to jump out of Aldridge’s moving car. Aldridge then removed her belt and put it around her neck to prevent her from escaping.

Lankford instructed the conspirators to drive to railroad tracks in a dark and remote location. There, Lankford and his co-conspirators physically assaulted the victim for her poor earnings and to maintain her compliance. During the victim’s entrapment in the conspiracy, Lankford and his co-conspirators repeatedly told her that Lankford had recently committed and had been acquitted of murder to keep the victim fearful for her life and compliant to their demands.

After assaulting her, Lankford and his co-conspirators transported the victim to a motel in which she was prohibited from wearing clothes for the remainder of the evening. She was also forced to take a cold shower for the purpose of causing her to suffer. Later that night, Lankford and his co-conspirators drafted a sex acts sheet which listed acts that the victim would be required to perform for customers moving forward. The sex acts sheet was later recovered pursuant to a search warrant of the motel room.

On the morning of October 30, 2018, the victim accessed Aldridge’s cell phone and called 911. Upon arrival at the motel room, local authorities saw the victim, who indicated that she was in distress. The co-conspirators were then detained. Prior to his arrest, one conspirator called Lankford and informed him that the victim was detailing her experience to the police. In response, Lankford told the co-conspirator not to worry as he would send the victim a lethal dose of heroin laced with battery acid.

“The details of this case are exponentially disturbing,” Mancuso said. Lankford and Aldridge deserve to serve every minute of their sentence. “HSI Baltimore is proud to have helped put these predators into federal prison, but we could not have made this happen without the assistance of our partners at the Department of Justice and our state and local law enforcement partners.”

Lankford was arrested two days later and informed officers that he deleted the contents of his cell phone in anticipation of his apprehension. While incarcerated, Lankford told a co-conspirator that he intended to kill the victim to prevent her from testifying against them at trial.

Report suspected instances of human trafficking and sex trafficking to HSI's tip line at 866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.

HSI is a directorate of ICE and 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.

Updated: 04/15/2022