KILLEEN (November 29, 2012)--A man who pleaded guilty in November in Waco's federal court to participating in a scheme to exploit girls younger than 18 as prostitutes in Killeen through an Internet site was sentenced Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith sentenced Jerome Maurice Cole, 27, of Killeen to 40 years in prison, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a press release.
Smith also ordered Cole to pay a $5,000 fine and to spend ten years on supervised release after completing the prison term.
Cole pleaded guilty in November to one count of a four-count indictment charging sex-trafficking of children.
"By pleading guilty, Cole admitted that he operated a prostitution venture from November 2011 until August 2012 involving minor females utilizing various technologies, including a personal computer, multiple cell phones, the Internet, and the website Backpage.com, to photograph, post prostitution advertisements, recruit new girls, and communicate with purchasers," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Co-defendant Nancy Foley of Killeen was sentenced to four years in federal prison earlier this month after she pleaded guilty in November to one count of conspiracy to promote a business enterprise involving prostitution.
“Trafficking children in the sex trade is an unspeakable crime. We will pursue and vigorously prosecute those who engage in such outrageous conduct to the fullest extent of the law,” said United States Attorney Pitman.
Federal criminal complaints and affidavits against Cole and Foley show police began an investigation into the criminal enterprise in April 2012 after learning there was evidence that at least three girls, all of whom were younger than 18, had been brought to Killeen to work as prostitutes.
Agents were able to establish that photographs of the girls had been stored on Cole's cellular telephone and had been transmitted to an Internet website that advertised women as prostitutes in the Killeen area.
Further investigation showed the inappropriate photographs of the girls had been taken using Foley's cell phone and later were transmitted via text message to Cole's cell phone.
Police first received a message from a woman that she believed her daughter, who was a run-away, was staying in the Killeen area and could have been tricked into becoming a prostitute.
Over several weeks police were able to identify at least two other girls younger than 18 who also were being promoted as prostitutes.
Police were able to identify a location on South Fort Hood Street where they believed the prostitution was taking place and went there to investigate.
When detectives knocked on the door a girl invited them in, and once inside they found an air mattress and a small light blue garbage can at the top left side of the mattress.
Inside the garbage can were more than 30 open condom wrappers, and used condoms.
Above the bed was a shelf that ran the length of the room and on the shelf was a bulk box of condoms with approximately three left.