ST. GEORGE — A 25-year-old man who pleaded guilty to human trafficking after authorities said he brought high-school students across state lines for prostitution could serve up to 15 years in prison.
Quinlen N. Atkinson was sentenced Wednesday by the 2nd District Court for Weber County and will serve between one and 15 years in prison as determined by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.
He was accused of recruiting two girls, aged 17 and 18, into sex work and taking them to Nevada and Idaho for prostitution.
He pleaded guilty to human trafficking in an agreement with prosecutors who dropped three counts, including aggravated exploitation of a child prostitute, in exchange.
The investigation by the Utah Attorney General’s SECURE strike force started after authorities found online sexual-services ads.
“Exploiting and abusing young people in this way is one of the most repulsive acts imaginable,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said, adding that the case is part of SECURE’s ongoing commitment to eradicate human trafficking in Utah.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office administers and coordinates the SECURE strike Force partnership with the Utah Department of Public Safety and county, federal and city law enforcement agencies to combat violent and other major felony crimes associated with illegal immigration and human trafficking.
Atkinson came to the attention of authorities after they received reports that he had recruited the two high school girls to work as part of his commercial sex operation, according to a statement from the Attorney General’s Office.
Witnesses reported that Atkinson substantially managed the commercial sex operation, including transporting both girls within and outside of the state for the purposes of commercial sex.
Atkinson was alleged to have kept most or all money earned in this operation, despite promising the girls he recruited that he would invest the money and purchase them a house.
Reyes called for “the community’s prayers on behalf of the victims and their families for a recovery that will help them reclaim their lives and their innocence.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.