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January 29, 2014Tampa, FL, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

Tampa Bay sex trafficker sentenced to nearly 34 years in prison

Tampa Bay sex trafficker sentenced to nearly 34 years in prison

TAMPA, Fla. — A Tampa Bay man was sentenced Wednesday to 33 years, nine months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release on sex trafficking and drug charges. The sentence resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Clearwater Police Department, with assistance from members of the Clearwater Area Human Trafficking Task Force.

A jury convicted Andrew Blane Fields, 62, of Lutz, on five counts of sex trafficking and three counts of narcotics distribution Nov. 6. He distributed controlled substances to victims to coerce them to participate in his sex trafficking scheme.

"The Civil Rights Division is committed to pursuing justice on behalf of vulnerable members of our society," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. "This defendant preyed on young women living in the shadows and on the margins. Using false promises to lure them in, he cruelly exploited them for his own profit, destroying them with drugs and selling their bodies for sex. This sentence sends a clear message that the United States will not tolerate modern-day slavery and will work tirelessly to restore the rights and dignity of its victims."

Fields identified vulnerable young women, one just 18 years old, who were prostitutes or exotic dancers. He then lured them through online advertisements with promises of safe transportation and protection. The defendant then provided the victims addictive drugs such as Oxycodone, Dilaudid and Morphine, at levels designed to intensify their dependency and addiction.

"Andrew Fields used prescription pills to manipulate and coerce his victims to prostitute themselves for his own financial gain," said Deputy Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden of HSI Tampa. "Even though we can't take away the physical and psychological damage his victims have endured, this nearly 34-year sentence ensures that additional women won't fall prey to his sex trafficking scheme."

Evidence showed that Fields rapidly increased the victims' drug use. While some victims initially used drugs only occasionally and others used a few pills a day, Fields escalated their drug use to full-blown addiction, with some victims requiring up to 15 pills a day to stave off withdrawal symptoms.

Fields acquired the drugs at low costs and charged the victims inflated prices to saddle them with mounting drug debts. He then manipulated the victims' fear of withdrawal symptoms to compel them to prostitute and turn all proceeds over to him. As a result, the victims didn't have any money or access to the addictive drugs, and they were fully dependent on Fields to avert withdrawal sickness. At times, Fields demanded that the victims engage in sexual acts with him to pay down the debts.

During the trial, five victims recounted their intense fear of withdrawal sickness. They conveyed that Fields manipulated that fear to coerce them to perform acts of prostitution for the defendant's profit in exchange for another dose of addictive drugs.

One of the victims testified that Fields, while watching her suffer through the onset of the excruciating physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, would compel her to serve another prostitution client by saying, "I'll give you one pill. I'm not going to give you another until you get up and go to work. And you know you need another."

"The court's sentence clearly reflects the seriousness of these awful sex trafficking crimes," said U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III for the Middle District of Florida. "We will continue to work with the Clearwater Area Human Trafficking Task Force and other law enforcement partners throughout the District to prosecute sex traffickers and vindicate victims' rights."

Law enforcement officers seized significant evidence from Fields' home, including more than 4,000 prescription pills, notebooks in which he recorded the victims' debts, advertisements for prostitution, cash, condoms, and books about pimping and prescription drugs.

Surveillance camera video footage showed Fields entering a hospital room in the middle of the night to deliver drugs to one of the victims. The video showed Fields handing the woman pills and another object which she hid under her bed sheet. At trial, the victim testified that the pills were Dilaudid and the other object was a syringe to inject the drug intravenously.

Another victim testified that Fields threatened to contact her probation officer and have her probation violated if she did not continue to engage in prostitution for his profit. When she did not submit to his demands, he followed through with this threat and she was incarcerated for violating the terms of her probation. The defendant contacted the victim while she was incarcerated to pressure her to recruit other victims. He immediately delivered addictive drugs to her upon her release from prison.

"Our agency takes these human trafficking cases very seriously because these perpetrators commit unfathomable crimes," said Chief Anthony Holloway for the Clearwater Police Department. "This defendant took over the lives of these women. We cannot – and will not – let that happen."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Josephine W. Thomas and Trial Attorney William E. Nolan of the Civil Rights Division's Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit prosecuted the case.