Tuesday, December 20, 2005

U.S. crackdown on child prostitution hits Michigan

December 17, 2005
BY DAVID ASHENFELTER
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Detroit Free Press

Two Toledo girls -- one 14 years old, the other 15 -- were held against their will and forced to perform sex for pay at hotels in Ohio and a truck stop in Michigan, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Friday in Detroit.

The indictment was one of four unsealed in four states Friday in a continuing federal crackdown on child prostitution. Another case involved three Detroit men accused of recruiting women and teenage girls to work as prostitutes in Detroit, Honolulu, Las Vegas and New York.

"These are the types of acts that occur unfortunately and regrettably in our district almost on a daily basis," U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy III said Friday. "We have no tolerance for it." Four people were charged in the Toledo case: Deric Willoughby, 40, who authorities accused of being the girls' pimp; Brandy Shope, 19, and Jennifer Huskey, 24, alleged prostitutes, and Richard Lamar Gordon, 40, a trucker from Etowah, Tenn., who is accused of driving the girls to Michigan and paying one of the girls $100 to have sex at a truck stop in Dexter. Willoughby, Shope and Huskey are from Toledo.

Authorities said the teenage girls were picked up by Willoughby and Shope on May 13 and taken to Willoughby's residence in Toledo. When the girls asked to leave, Willoughby locked the door and told them they couldn't, authorities said.

No details were released about how or why the girls met Willoughby and Shope.

Court papers said Shope and Huskey told the girls they would work as prostitutes for Willoughby or they'd be hurt. They also were told to call him "daddy" as a sign of respect.

During the 10 days they were held, they were assaulted by Willoughby and forced to engage in sex acts as Shope and Huskey watched and collected money from customers, authorities said.

At some point, the court records said, the girls were taken to a store parking lot in Toledo, where they got into a truck with Gordon, who took them to a truck stop along I-94 in Dexter in Washtenaw County. Prosecutors allege he paid $100 to have sex with one of the girls as Huskey watched.

The other girl was forced to have sex with other truckers as Shope watched, court papers said.

Washtenaw County sheriff's deputies received a prostitution complaint and began investigating.

Willoughby, Shope and Huskey were later arrested in Toledo, but federal authorities did not reveal Friday when that arrest was made or when or how the girls were freed.

Court papers did say, however, that Willoughby caused one of the girls to fall from his second-story window when the girl's father went there to rescue her. Authorities did not elaborate.

Willoughby, Shope and Huskey are in federal custody.

Gordon, who was released after being questioned by sheriff's deputies, is being sought. The FBI is asking anyone with information about his whereabouts to call 313-965-2323.

All four are charged with conspiracy, aiding and abetting in the sex trafficking of children, and aiding and abetting interstate transportation of minors for prostitution. Sex trafficking of children carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In the other Michigan case, Robert Lewis Young, 44, of Detroit is accused of recruiting women and two Hawaiian girls, ages 16 and 17, to become prostitutes between March and July 2004 in a ring that stretched from Detroit to Nevada, New York and Hawaii.

Some of the prostitutes worked on the street while others worked out of motels, authorities said.

They said Young operated a Web-based escort business that featured pornography, including photos of unidentified children, and a Honolulu travel brokerage agency that made travel arrangements for prostitutes.

Two Detroit men accused of being associates of Young -- Jeffrey McCoy, 44, and George Abro, 29, also were charged, as was Joe Awethe, alleged to be Young's bodyguard. His age and hometown were not released.

Young was arrested Thursday in Las Vegas; McCoy was arrested Thursday in Honolulu, and will be taken to Detroit. Abro is expected to surrender to federal authorities on Monday. Awethe's status was unclear Friday.

Young is charged with sex trafficking of children, transportation of a minor for criminal sexual activity, sexual exploitation of children, interstate distribution of child pornography, racketeering and other charges.

McCoy is charged with sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion. Abro is charged with money laundering and racketeering.

The men also were charged in Hawaii. Prosecutors must still decide where they will be tried.

The other indictments announced Friday involved prostitution cases in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

All told, 31 people were charged in the indictments, the latest in a program dubbed Innocence Lost. More than 200 victims have been identified since the program began in 2003.

Contact DAVID ASHENFELTER at 313-223-4490 or ashenf@freepress.com.

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