ROANOKE, Va. – A 26-year-old, Vinton, Virginia, resident, was sentenced Monday to 156 months in federal prison for sex trafficking a minor and persuading a minor to engage in prostitution. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the FBI, the Roanoke City Police Department and the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office.
Terrell Banker, 26, was convicted of federal sex trafficking charges following a jury trial in October 2015.
A co-defendant, Laura Cook, previously pled guilty to conspiracy to engage in the sex trafficking of a minor and was sentenced to 58 months in prison earlier this year.
“Sex trafficking is an international crisis that not only impacts men and women overseas but, tragically, is rooted in cities and towns all across our country,” United States Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr. said today. “This case was particularly tragic because it involved the trafficking of a minor, a girl of just 17 at the time of the incident. It is encouraging, however, that law enforcement helped identify the trafficking behavior and put an early end to what could have been a very long and painful run of abuse by these two defendants.”
“Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes we investigate. Victims are often vulnerable, and their traffickers prey on those vulnerabilities, trapping them in a cycle they can’t break free from. No person – especially a minor – should have to endure this treatment,” said Clark E. Settles, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Washington, D.C. “Today’s sentence marks a win for law enforcement. One more trafficker is off the streets and will have to face the consequences of his actions behind bars.”
According to evidence presented at Banker’s trial and Cook’s guilty plea hearing, Victim One was a 17-year-old resident of Salem who began socializing with Cook via the Internet in February 2015. At the insistence of Cook, Victim One stayed at Cook’s home, partied with Cook and took illegal drugs with Cook. At some point in February 2015, Cook introduced Victim One to Banker, who provided various illegal drugs to Cook, and others, including marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine. Cook asked Banker to provide Victim One with methamphetamine. On at least one occasion, Banker took payment for the drugs he provided in the form of sex with Victim One.
In March 2015, Victim One ran away from home and was harbored by Cook. After discussing Victim One’s situation with Banker, Cook and Banker decided that Victim One would be prostituted as a way to earn money. Near the end of March 2015, Banker arranged a prostitution encounter for Victim One, transported her to take part in the commercial sex act and took payment from the “John.” Victim One was hungry, had no money and no other means to support herself and therefore, reluctantly, engaged in the commercial sex act at the direction of Banker and Cook.