A federal grand jury indicted a Reisterstown couple on four counts of child sex trafficking, alleging that the pair recruited, housed and prostituted three minor teenage girls, in part by advertising sexual services on Craigslist.
According to the indictment, Byron "B" Thompson, 25, and Lea "Eboni" Shawnay Bell, 28, told the girls to engage in commercial sex, giving them various prices for different acts, which were carried out in a rented room at a Baltimore County Days Inn. The defendants then allegedly took the girls to a truck stop in Jessup for the same purpose, but they were rescued by police before they could act.
The indictment was returned Thursday and unsealed Monday, shortly before the defendants made their first appearance in Baltimore federal court. They came in together, Bell in black bike shorts and Thompson in jeans. Both said they understood the charges against them. And though they said little else to Judge Susan K. Gauvey, Thompson whispered at length to Bell as attorneys conferred at the bench. Bell gave a terse nod when he was through, wiping her eyes with a sweat shirt sleeve as her public defender returned to the table.
The indictment claims that from January through April, Bell and Thompson provided marijuana, food, shelter, clothing and condoms to the girls, one of whom was born in 1991 and the other two in 1994. Investigators allege that the pair told the girls to lie about their ages, and placed posts online advertising sex for sale and offering the girls' cell phone numbers as the contact information.
If convicted of sex trafficking, Bell and Thompson each faces a maximum of life in prison.
"Maryland's human trafficking task force has zero tolerance for child prostitution," U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement. "Everyone involved in charging or paying for sex with children should be on notice that law enforcement agents and prosecutors are standing by to send them to federal prison."
The case was investigated by the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, which includes federal, state and local law enforcement members.