Conviction in federal sex-trafficking case

Editor | February 17, 2011

Historic City News received notice from the U.S. Department of Justice that a 45 year-old New York City man that was operating a wide-reaching sex trafficking ring in Jacksonville, now faces a maximum penalty of two consecutive life sentences plus 35 years in federal prison for his crimes.

Yesterday, U.S. Attorney Robert E. O’Neill told Historic City News that Tyrone Townsend was convicted Wednesday of sex trafficking by force, threats of force and fraud; transporting women across state lines for prostitution; enticing, inducing and coercing a woman to travel across state lines for prostitution; and conspiracy to transport a woman across state lines for prostitution.

Law enforcement first became aware of Townsend’s illegal activities during an undercover prostitution sting conducted by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office on September 16, 2009. Townsend and the women were in Jacksonville from September 9, 2009, until September 16, 2009.

Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford said, “I applaud the work of our Special Investigations Unit, as they continue to dig beyond the seemingly typical prostitution activity we see, and develop these human trafficking cases.”

Court records, reviewed by Historic City News, show that Townsend caused the women to engage in sex acts for money from an abandoned apartment on Edenfield Road in Jacksonville as well as a number of local homes, hotels and other “customer” locations.

Townsend’s victims testified that he beat them and sexually assaulted them as a means of causing them to engage in sexual acts. “Sex trafficking takes place outside public view, but as we’ve seen in this case, it is nothing less than modern-day slavery,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge, James Casey.

During the course of the investigation, detectives amassed a large amount of evidence; including hotel records, phone records, bank records, and 28 internet ads. Evidence also included a Myspace message to one of the victims in which Townsend threatened to beat her for not making “her number” — a reference to her nightly quota of $1,000.00.

Investigators seized a Garmin GPS from Townsend’s vehicle. From the data it contained, police were able to establish locations of various customers in Jacksonville.

Townsend, who was indicted on April 20, 2010, transported his victims from Norfolk, Virginia, to Thomasville, NC, Atlanta, GA, Kingsland, GA, and Jacksonville. His sentencing hearing has been scheduled for June 6, 2011, where he faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 30 years.

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