Featured Post

Thank You, Axl Rotten (And R.I.P.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Co-Defendants Sentenced For Roles In Former Wrestler's Sex Trafficking Ring

Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice:

WASHINGTON, March 13 -- Aimee Allen, 37, formerly of Cartersville, Ga., and now of Williamsville, N.Y., and Cedric Jackson, 41, of Atlanta, Ga., were sentenced today in the Northern District of Georgia on charges of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking, the Justice Department announced today.

Allen was sentenced to 2 years, 10 months in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, and fined $1,500. Jackson was sentenced to 5 years in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, and fined $1,500. Allen and Jackson were convicted of these charges on May 1, 2006 when they each entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit peonage, sex trafficking, forced labor, trafficking with respect to peonage and forced labor and witness tampering. Allen and Jackson admitted to conspiring with former professional wrestler Harrison "Hardbody" Norris Jr., to recruit and force several women into prostitution and domestic servitude.

According to information presented in court, Jackson admitted to acting as a leader of the ring in the Atlanta area. Specifically, Jackson admitted that he and Norris would bail unsuspecting women out of local jails and use those debts to coerce the women into prostitution in order to make repayment. Jackson further admitted that he provided two women to Norris' forced prostitution business. One of those women testified at Norris' trial that before Jackson handed her over to Norris, she was kidnapped, choked, and sexually assaulted by Jackson.

Allen admitted that she was Norris' most loyal "team leader". According to Allen, since 2001, she helped Norris recruit women, many of whom were poor, homeless or addicted to drugs, to engage in prostitution, by first convincing them that Norris would help them to become female wrestlers. Allen gave Norris' scheme an aura of respectability as she would tell the women she was in a female wrestling troupe and they could be as well. However, when they were recruiting these victims, Allen knew that the women would not become professional wrestlers and that they would be forced to engage in prostitution. In her role as "team leader," Allen supervised and
monitored the victims who were lured to Norris's home, to ensure that they would not escape or fail to comply with Norris's rules. According to the evidence at trial, Allen assaulted a woman at Norris's instruction and induced several victims to engage in commercial sex acts, by scaring them with tales of physical repercussions from Norris if they refused to do as they were told. Allen ultimately cooperated in the case and testified against Norris at trial describing his organization and how he controlled women through force, threats of force, debts and fines.

On Nov. 21, 2007, a jury convicted the ring leader of this operation, Harrison "Hardbody" Norris Jr., on multiple charges of sex trafficking and slavery. According to evidence presented at trial, Norris kidnapped some victims and lured others to come live with him by promising to train them as professional wrestlers. Witnesses testified that Norris also obtained victims from other pimps, who "traded" women with Norris. Cedric Jackson was one such pimp from whom Norris received two women. Once in Norris's home, the victims were held against their wills, fined, beaten, threatened with violence, and forced to engage in prostitution and domestic service. Norris's sex trafficking scheme ran with the assistance of "team leaders" such as Aimee Allen, Michelle Achuff, and Leslie Smith, who presented themselves as female wrestlers in order to recruit victims, monitored victims for Norris, and enforced his rules.

In the same court today, Michelle Achuff, 25, of Lafayette, Tenn. and Leslie Smith 22, of Macon, Ga., were sentenced to probation for making false statements to agents of the FBI. These two women, who previously pleaded guilty to these crimes, were also "team leaders" in Norris's prostitution organization. Achuff and Smith admitted that they provided false information about Norris's activities to federal law enforcement agents, claiming that he was only involved in a legitimate wrestling company, in order to protect Norris. These women also cooperated in the investigation after their guilty pleas.

"With today's sentences, these defendants have been held to answer for their participation in a scheme to exploit and abuse numerous young women," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "The Department of Justice will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that those who engage in the terrible crime of sex trafficking are brought to justice."

U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias said of the sentencings, "Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery that robs individuals of their freedom. The chains of confinement are often psychological and hidden. These convictions and sentences show that those assisting human traffickers--whether in finding victims, transporting victims against their will, ensuring that the victims are not free to leave-or trying to protect and hide the crimes, also may face prosecution and prison time."

Human trafficking prosecutions such as this one are a top priority in the Department of Justice. In the last seven fiscal years, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney's Offices, has increased by nearly seven-fold the number of human trafficking cases filed in court as compared to the previous seven fiscal years. In Fiscal Year 2007, the Department obtained a record number of convictions in human trafficking prosecutions.

This case was investigated by the FBI with assistance from Smyrna Police Department and Bartow County Sheriff's Office.

Civil Rights Division trial attorney Karima Maloney and Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Coppedge prosecuted the case for the government.