Ohio man used Craigslist, MySpace, YouTube and Other Social Networking Sites to Recruit Prostitutes and Sell Sexual Services
Baltimore, Maryland - Richard Johnson, age 22, of Chillicothe, Ohio, pleaded guilty today to charges related to running a sex and drug trafficking business from an apartment in Millersville, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.
According to Johnson’s plea, from January to April, 2009, he participated in a conspiracy to conduct a prostitution business from an apartment in Millersville, Maryland. Specifically, Johnson admits that he and his co-conspirators transported, and enticed to travel, at least 12 individuals from two different states to Maryland, in order to engage in prostitution. Johnson directly and successfully recruited two of those individuals, and attempted to recruit additional females. Johnson and his co-conspirators shared in the prostitution earnings of girls who worked for them. Johnson spent his earnings on illegal narcotics, jewelry and expensive watches. Johnson and his co-conspirators often boasted of the money they were earning in Maryland by filming videos displaying their items of wealth and posting them on the internet.
Johnson and his co-conspirators used Craigslist, MySpace, YouTube, and other web-based social networking and classified advertising services, as well as cellular telephones, to recruit females to serve as prostitutes, to promote their prostitution business, and to advertise sexual services. Johnson and his co-conspirators used prepaid debit cards and aliases when posting Craigslist ads for sexual services in order to conceal their unlawful activities. Johnson also assisted in photographing females in various states of undress to accompany advertisements of sexual services on Craigslist. Johnson and some co-conspirators also provided protection for the prostitutes working at the apartment in Millersville, even brandishing a gun during a dispute. Johnson also handled numerous firearms during the conspiracy and discharged a weapon in the apartment.
Also according to the plea agreement, from at least January 2009 through September 2009, Johnson and his conspirators distributed illegal narcotics to associates, prostitutes, sex and drug customers and others, both inside and outside of Maryland. Johnson admits that he is responsible for between 50 and 200 grams of MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, and N-Benzylpiperazine, also known as BZP. Johnson often came to Maryland to utilize the Millersville apartment to establish a drug business in Baltimore. On at least three occasions, Johnson went to Detroit, Michigan with a co-conspirator to purchase illegal narcotics, later distributing these drugs in Ohio and Maryland. Upon his release from Maryland state custody in August 2009, Johnson returned to Ohio and continued to negotiate drug sales with a co-conspirator located in Maryland. Until his federal arrest in September 2009, Johnson also contacted a number of potential witnesses in this matter to provide warnings that law enforcement was still investigating.
Johnson faces a maximum sentence of: life in prison for sex trafficking by force; five years in prison for the prostitution conspiracy; 10 years in prison for transportation for prostitution; 20 years in prison for enticement; and 20 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute Ecstasy and BZP. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz scheduled his sentencing for February 12, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.
The case was investigated by the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force formed in 2007 to discover and rescue victims of human trafficking while identifying and prosecuting offenders. Members include federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as victim service providers and local community members. For more information about the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, please visit http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/md/Human-Trafficking/index.html.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Anne Arundel County Police Department, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command and the Chillicothe, Ohio Police Department for their assistance and investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Solette A. Magnelli, who is prosecuting the case.