Special to Iredell Free News

CHARLOTTE – In recognition of National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, U.S. Attorney Dena J. King has reaffirmed her office’s commitment to combat all forms of trafficking and raise public awareness through federal prosecutions and community outreach.

U.S. Attorney Dena King

“National Human Trafficking Prevention Month is a painful reminder that there are men, women and children living among us who are trapped in a life of bonded labor, violence and forced prostitution for little or no pay,” King said during an event hosted by the Charlotte Metro Human Trafficking Task Force earlier this month.

“Human trafficking is an insidious crime and has no place in our society. My office is committed to identifying and holding accountable those who commit these heinous acts and seeking justice on behalf of trafficking victims. Above all, we will continue to work alongside our law enforcement partners, community organizations, and victim services groups to educate the public about human trafficking and assist survivors as they recover and rebuild their lives.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also released a Public Service Announcement to raise community awareness about human trafficking and to share information on how to report suspected human trafficking activity.

Human Trafficking Prosecutions

In 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s for the Western District of North Carolina’s anti-trafficking efforts resulted in the following prosecutions:

♦ In November 2022, a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging Kristi Heather King, 32, of Locust, N.C., and Tawaan Batten, 32, of Charlotte with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor, sex trafficking of a minor, and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in prostitution and sexual activity. The charges against King and Batten are pending and the defendants remain in federal custody.

♦ On June 27, 2022, Dajuan Akeem Blair, 26, of Charlotte was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for sex trafficking of a minor. Blair was convicted of causing a minor female to engage in prostitution. The victim was a 16-year-old runaway, and she was introduced to Blair by a mutual friend, also a teenager, who had previously dated the defendant. Blair knew that both females were minors. On December 26, 2018, Blair rented a motel room in Charlotte, where he took pictures of the minors and used the pictures to advertise the minors for sex online. Over the next two days, Blair arranged sexual encounters for the minors and set the prices for those encounters. Blair then took a portion of the minor victim’s earnings from the commercial sex.

♦ On June 15, 2022, Thuy Tien Luong, 38, of Charlotte was ordered to serve 15 years in prison after a federal jury found that the defendant compelled the labor of one of her nail technicians at a salon she owned and operated in Davidson. From October 2016 to June 2018, Luong compelled the victim’s labor by, among other things, physically assaulting the victim, threatening to ruin the victim’s reputation with her family, and falsely claiming that the victim owed Luong a fictitious debt.

♦ On January 26, 2022, Simone Cherelle McIllwain, 30, of Charlotte was sentenced to more than 19 years in prison for sex trafficking of a minor from December 2-19, 2019. Court documents show that the minor victim was introduced to McIllwain through a mutual acquaintance, and shortly thereafter McIllwain began to advertise the victim online for commercial sex. McIllwain also arranged for the minor to engage in sex acts at McIllwain’s hotel room in Charlotte and the defendant kept a portion of the proceeds. At the time of the offense, McIllwain was on supervised release for a 2014 federal conviction in Florida, for transporting a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity.

♦ Milton Antonio Hasty, 31, of Fayetteville has pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of a minor. From January 22, 2019, through June 5, 2019, Hasty did knowingly recruit, entice and transport a minor, recklessly disregarded that the minor was under the age of 18 years old, and that the minor would be caused to engage in a commercial sex act. A sentencing date for Hasty has not been set.

“As we move forward, we will continue our record of courtroom successes and draw upon our collective resources to identify and assist trafficking victims and put behind bars those who seek to profit from the suffering and exploitation of other human beings,” King said.

If you believe you are the victim of human trafficking or have information about a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Specialists are available to answer calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also send a text to 233733 or submit a tip HERE.

You can also contact the Charlotte Office of the FBI at 704-672-6100, Homeland Security Investigations at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) or your local law enforcement agency.

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