By Biodun Busari
The United States District J in Alabama has sentenced a 36-year-old man, Lonnie Mitchell to 60 years in prison for forcing women including minors to engage in prostitution.
Judge Austin Huffaker gave the verdict adding that Mitchell would also pay over $950,000 in restitution to the victims.
This was made known in a press release by the US Department of Justice on Friday.
The defendant, a resident of Montgomery was also found guilty of sex trafficking of five victims in June 2022 where he used force, fraud and coercion to achieve.
According to the jury, Mitchell was guilty of three counts of coercing and enticing an individual to travel in interstate commerce for prostitution purposes.
“The defendant used unspeakable violence and manipulation of the victims’ substance abuse problems to control their every move and exploit them for his own financial gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“Human trafficking is an atrocious crime that targets some of the most vulnerable members of our society, cruelly robbing them of their dignity and freedom. The Department of Justice remains committed to prioritizing human trafficking prosecutions and vindicating the rights of the victims of these heinous crimes.”
“Today’s sentence reflects the defendant’s horrific treatment and abuse of his victims,” said US Attorney Sandra J. Stewart for the Middle District of Alabama.
“Although their physical injuries will heal, the emotional damage caused by their suffering will last a lifetime. I am thankful for all of the agencies that worked together on this case, and for the courageous victims that testified at his trial.
“I hope this sentence will provide at least some consolation to the victims knowing that the defendant has been held accountable for his crimes.”
“Mr Mitchell’s crimes were particularly atrocious, which was reflected in the severity of his sentencing,” said DHS Homeland Security Investigations (DHS-HIS) Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Katrina Berger.
“We hope this outcome will contribute to the victims’ healing process, but also serve as a warning to others who would victimise others for their own financial gain. HSI special agents and our law enforcement partners will continue to protect our communities from illegal trafficking and narcotics activity.”
According to the evidence presented in court, defendant Mitchell targeted vulnerable victims who struggled with substance abuse issues, and then manipulated their substance abuse problems for his advantage.