ST. GEORGE — A Utah couple has been sentenced to prison for trafficking women into prostitution by beating them or exploiting their vulnerabilities as part of a long-term sex trafficking operation they ran out of a Utah residence.
Lynnsie Reddish, 21, and Terrance Chavez Jones, 31, who both pleaded guilty last month to two counts each of second-degree felony human trafficking, were sentenced Monday to an indeterminate prison sentence of 1-15 years on each count, the maximum sentence for their offenses.
Reddish and Jones were arrested in July 2017 and charged with 16 felony offenses, including aggravated kidnapping and multiple counts of human trafficking, based on evidence of a long-term sex trafficking operation they ran out of a residence in Ogden City, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Office of the Utah Attorney General.
At a preliminary hearing, seven women testified about their experience working for the operation.
The women testified that Reddish and Jones exploited their drug addictions, poverty, lack of housing and other vulnerabilities to recruit them to work in commercial sex, according to the statement.
Jones was the drug supplier and the “muscle” for the operation, according to the women’s testimonies. He handled payment transactions and nearly all the money made went to him and Reddish.
Two of the women testified to the violence Reddish and Jones used against them when they tried to leave.
“One woman shared that Reddish and Jones held her in a room, cut off her hair and beat her with a belt. according to the attorney general’s office. “The other, after refusing to have sex with a “client,” left the house, was chased down and beat in the street.”
One of the women Reddish recruited is autistic and meets the definition of a vulnerable adult, authorities said.
“According to the victims, Reddish knew about her disability and forced her to work anyway, often beating her up or locking her into a closest when she refused,” the attorney general’s office said, adding:
This victim’s story is part of the basis for an upcoming bill this legislative session to increase penalties for human trafficking of vulnerable adults.
Human trafficking facts
The following human trafficking facts can be found on the Utah Attorney General’s Office website:
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain. It is estimated that human trafficking is a $32 billion per year industry, second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime.
Traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. They look for people who are vulnerable.
Many misconceptions exist about human trafficking. For example, people think it only occurs abroad; that victims are only foreign-born or impoverished individuals; that traffickers are always strangers; and that victims always have visible chains.
Human trafficking exists in every country, including the United States. It exists nationwide – in cities, suburbs and rural towns – and probably in your own community.
Human trafficking victims can be any age, race, gender or nationality: young children, teenagers, women, men, runaways, United States citizens and foreign-born individuals. They may come from all socioeconomic groups.
You may have heard about sex trafficking, but forced labor is also a significant and prevalent type of human trafficking. Victims are found in legitimate and illegitimate labor industries, including sweatshops, massage parlors, agriculture, restaurants, hotels and domestic service. Note that sex trafficking and forced labor are both forms of human trafficking, involving the exploitation of a person.
According to U.S. federal law, any minor under the age of 18 who is induced to perform commercial sex acts is a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether he or she is forced or coerced.
Human trafficking is not the same as smuggling. “Trafficking” is exploitation-based and does not require movement across borders. “Smuggling” is movement-based and involves moving a person across a country’s border with that person’s consent, in violation of immigration laws.
Human trafficking is often a hidden crime. Victims may be afraid to come forward and get help; they may be forced or coerced through threats or violence; they may fear retribution from traffickers, including danger to their families; and they may not be in possession or have control of the identification documents.
“Anybody who would say that human trafficking and child exploitation doesn’t exist in our community is perpetuating a very irresponsible myth amongst the community,” Reyes said during an earlier press conference.
Human trafficking tips should be reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.
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