Operation Stolen Innocence: 170 people charged in Tallahassee child sex trafficking network
( Tallahassee )
A two-year investigation by the Tallahassee Police Department into the horrific sexual exploitation of a young teenage girl netted a staggering amount of arrests — with more than 170 people charged over recent months.
On Tuesday, TPD Chief Lawrence Revell and state and federal officials announced results of Operation Stolen Innocence, a highly secretive investigation into the commercial sex trafficking of the girl, who was 13 and 14 when the alleged offenses occurred.
The investigation, which police officials declined to even acknowledge for months, was likely the biggest of its kind in Tallahassee history, Revell said.
Some 106 people were charged with felonies, including human trafficking, lewd and lascivious battery on a child under 16 and production and possession of child pornography. Another 72 people were charged with misdemeanors, including solicitation of prostitution.
According to past reporting by the Tallahassee Democrat, the Johns and others swept up in the investigation include a P.E. teacher and a write-in candidate. Others arrested include university and state employees and individuals with criminal records.
Several of the defendants are women, charged with helping to arrange paid “plays” with the girl in exchange for cash.
"I know it's hard to believe that something like this happens here in our community," said Lorena Vollrath-Bueno, felony chief for the State Attorney's Office. "But it does."
The investigation began in late 2018 after investigators spotted the girl in an online sex-for-pay listing.
TPD’s Special Victims Unit set out to rescue the child, who cooperated in efforts to bring charges against the people who exploited her. Revell praised the police work that yielded the arrests, many of which began in July and ended just days ago.
"The arrests in this operation are the culmination of the diligent work from our dedicated investigators, who have worked tirelessly to bring justice to the victims in this case," he said. "I cannot say enough about the work that you all did and how proud I am of each of you.”
Numerous agencies worked with TPD in the investigation: the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the State Attorney’s Office and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office.
U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe vowed to continue going after child sex traffickers. Nearly 20 of the defendants, including some from out of state, face federal charges.
“We in local, state and federal law enforcement are all working together as a team to dismantle their networks and to pursue, prosecute and punish those who are involved,” he said. “Operation Stolen Innocence is an excellent example of how all levels of law enforcement can put it all together and get it done, to take down a child trafficking network right here in our community.”
Victim's existence was 'horrific'
Police would not discuss details that could identify the victim — including whether her mother was involved or charged in the sex trafficking ring.
A number of defendants told investigators during sworn interviews that the girl’s mother wouldn’t allow anyone to have sex with her unless they brought money or drugs, according to police reports. Others described encounters that happened inside a filthy apartment and hotels and motels across town.
The meetings were arranged over text messages, Facebook and other social media and apps, leaving a vast electronic trail of evidence that took investigators months to unravel.
Elizabeth Bascom of TPD, one of the lead investigators, called the girl’s exploitation “horrific.” She the abuse likely began even before her 13th birthday.
“This was a child, 13 turning 14 ... who worked through her birthday as if it did not exist, who worked through Thanksgiving while we sat at tables and enjoyed our families, who worked through Christmas like it wasn’t even there,” she said.
Chief Revell said the girl is “on the road to recovery, and she’s doing well given the situation.” Bascom said she plans to testify in court, though it’s unclear at this point how many of the cases will go to trial.
“She does have things to say,” Bascom said. “She was able to say that this has seriously impacted her life, and it is very difficult at times. But she is working to get her life back.”
‘Any child can be at risk’
Vollrath-Bueno, a veteran prosecutor of child sex crimes, said human trafficking is a $150 billion global industry, with nearly two-thirds of the profit coming from commercial sexual exploitation.
She said estimates suggest 50,000 people are trafficked each year in the United States alone.
“The exact numbers ... are hard to define because human trafficking like many crimes lives in the dark,” she said. “It is notoriously under-reported.”
Vollrath-Bueno said victims can be adults or children, male or female and exploited for sex or labor. In the U.S., she said, the average age a child enters the sex trade ranges from 12 to 14.
“Children with low visibility in the community, unstable home lives, mental health issues, drug issues, frequent runaways, are most at risk,” she said. “I say ‘most’ because any child can be at risk.”
Revell said all the people charged thus far had contact with the victim at the center of the case. But he and others acknowledged the likelihood of more victims.
“We know that it’s going on here in our town,” he said. “We know that we have to address it. We’re committed to changing this, to have more and more positive impacts and rescue more and more children.”
Investigators urged victims and people who are aware of victims to speak out. People can report information to law enforcement or the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
Roll call of the arrested
Those facing felony charges connected to the largest TPD human trafficking operation in city history.
Michael Tyrone Harris, 51, Havana
Jarred A. Jenkins, 26, Department of Corrections
Travis Alexander Thomas, 37, Midway
Jamichael Reshard Cox, 30, Department of Corrections
Anthony Rivers, 25, Tallahassee
Momodou Lamin Janneh, 26, Tallahassee
Stephen Lee Pichard, 53, Tallahassee
Joshua Ricardo Curry, Tallahassee
Briahnna Venus Banks, 24, Tallahassee
Helen Kimberly Anderson, 27, Tallahassee
O’bryan K Finley, 36, Tallahassee
Erik Oben Rivers, 47, Tallahassee
Shuntae Lamar Kirksey, 25, Tallahassee
Manor Joseph III, 57, Tallahassee
Daryl Lamar Howard Jr., 34, Tallahassee
Christopher L. Williams Jr., 24, Tallahassee
Tony Dickey, 36, Tallahassee
Jordan Jenkins, 27, Tallahassee
Trayveontaye Jamarquez Cheesmon, 21, Chattahoochee
Joseph Austin, Jr., 45, Tallahassee
Tinara Lashay Spears, 22, Tallahassee
Essence Katana Blue, 24, Tallahassee
Maricio Lavant Scott, 30, Tallahassee
Alfred Bernard Marktorion Simmons, Jr., 22, Tallahassee
Adavion D Barnes, 23, Tallahassee
Norphles Washington, 28, Tallahassee
Malcolm Jerome Carter, 29, Tallahassee
Phillip Wesley Watkins, 42, Tallahassee
Samuel Bryant, 39, Tallahassee
Michael DeWayne Wooten, 42, Tallahassee
Jontae Jamel Jackson, 39, Tallahassee
William Glenn Ellis, Jr., 58, Quincy
Jermaine Miller, 29, Tallahassee
Brian Omar Johnson, 49, Tallahassee
Jacob Dewitt Greene, 32, Tallahassee
Eric Sheldon Daniel, 30, Tallahassee
Michael Tybireous Jarcord, 51, Tallahassee
Terrence Faulk, 38, Tallahassee
Danny Earl Richards, 50, Telogia, Fla.
Brian Gerald Winsett, 50, Tallahassee
Dustin Kyle Claypool, 23, Tallahassee
Tokusei J. Pfeiffer, 44, Tallahassee
Durell Thomas, 34, Tallahassee
Houston Wagner IV, 23, Tallahassee
Martravius Terrell Gilbert, 21, Tallahassee
John Fitzgerald Coates, 56, Tallahassee
Ontario D. Lawrence, 45, Tallahassee
Mark L. Barineau, 58, Tallahassee
Michael O’Hara Jones II, 34, Tallahassee
Jamil Reymundo Gardner, 31, Tallahassee
Henrarles Tankachap Ekokobe, 26, Tallahassee
Max Oliver Serge Saint Albin, 26, Unknown
Korenna N. Williams, 23, Tallahassee
Jamar D. Nicholson, 23, Tallahassee
Kenneth L. Monroe, 29, Tallahassee
Anthony Hill, Jr., 31, Tallahassee
Synara Bouie 37, Quincy
Anthony B. Logan, 24, Tallahassee
Latonya Wilburn, 46, Tallahassee
David Zachariah Brown, Jr., 23, Tallahassee
George Williams, 43, Perry
Brittany K. Brown, 30, Tallahassee
Robert L. Wiggins, Jr., 33, Tallahassee
Sherley Duvain, 21, Tallahassee
Brandon Marteze Richardson, 30, Tallahassee
Steven Garrett, 30, Tallahassee
Bacari Phillips, 29, Tallahassee
Jasmine Fields, 20, Tallahassee
Dwayne Ladarris Blake, 31, Tallahassee
Robert Lee Williams, Jr., 24, Monticello
Damion Javier Boone, 25, Tallahassee
Marq-Twoine D. Lindsey, 26, Tallahassee
Tavaris Devon Paul, 25, Quincy
Rasheed Amin Mercer, 38, Tallahassee
Damonta Tyrell Morris, 26, Tallahassee
Marco W. Gaines, 29, Quincy
DeAntwon Leshawn Ray, 29, Quincy
Kendrick Lorenzo Hayes, 29, Tallahassee
Victor Molina, 22, Quincy
Garland Darnell Bullock, 31, Tallahassee
Maurice D. Towels, 38, Tallahassee
Dwight C. Cross, Jr., 28, Tallahassee
Alpha O. Gaines, Jr., 27, Tallahassee
Bahkarie Floyd Sweeting, 23, Tallahassee
Kelly Devarius Payne, 32, Tallahassee
Jacorbin Tharon Simmons, 30, Tallahassee
Brandon Marshawn Morris, 24, Tallahassee
Ali F Barber, Jr., 19, Tallahassee
Ellis Ibiso Jack, 22, Tallahassee
Charrez Constantion, Jr., 25, Quincy
Dontavious Perkins, 23, Cario, Ga.
Dontavious Phillips, 29, Midway
Frederick Lamar Jones, 31, Havana
Apollo S. Kenon, Jr., 25, Gretna
Gerardo Lopez De Nava Cazares, 24, Monticello
Tevaris James Hogan, Sr., 30, Tallahassee
Quentiz Allen Barnes, 31, Tallahassee
Denzel Javon Washington, 23, Tallahassee
Jerry Lee Moore, Jr., 27, Tallahassee
Kurtis Antonio Morris, 40, Tallahassee
Jirard Quinn Kincherlow, 38, Montgomery, Ala.
Eldred Keith Jennings, 39, Lamont, Fla.
Keith Antonia Johnson, 50, Tallahassee
Detroy Lamont Garrett, 42, Tallahassee
Destin Reche Banks, 32, Tallahassee
Daniel Alexander Mitchell, 32, Tallahassee