GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - A man who headed an underage prostitution service in Kent and Ottawa counties that used online advertising to solicit clients was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison.
Authorities say Anthony Troy Wilson-Lackey Jr. and two others were involved in the operation. The girls were advertised on a website where prostitution services can be found; client liaisons took place at Grand Rapids area hotels and an apartment building in Holland.
The operation was shut down in Oct. 2014 after Grand Rapids police received information that the girls, both 16, were working out of a city hotel.
Wilson-Lackey Jr., 22, was sentenced Wednesday to 5-¼ years in prison for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor.
“The phone was ringing off the hook’’ in response to online ads offering the teens for sex, a co-defendant once boasted.
Stephanie Ann Martin, 24, was sentenced in August to four years in prison. Shyron Dionte Smith, 22, got a 2-½ year term.
U.S. District Court Judge Janet T. Neff on Wednesday ordered that Wilson-Lackey serve five years of supervised release once he gets out of federal prison.
Wilson-Lackey in February pleaded guilty to a sex trafficking conspiracy charge. In exchange for his plea, two counts of sex trafficking of a minor were dismissed. He faced up to life in prison.
In a letter to the judge, Wilson-Lackey admitted that he had a chance to help the teens get out of prostitution, but instead “enabled them.’’
“One thing I have learned in here is that when you hit rock bottom, remember that God is the rock on the bottom,’’ he wrote the judge.
The teen prostitutes revealed that Wilson-Lackey offered to split proceeds 50/50 for their services, according to a criminal complaint.
The girls sent Wilson-Lackey photos of themselves, which he used to create online prostitution advertisements. His cellphone served as the contact number for clients.
Multiple johns called his cellphone in response to the online ads. The girls performed sex acts with multiple men at an apartment building in Holland, with Wilson-Lackey collecting the proceeds.
In one phone conversation recorded by authorities, he described the girls as “stupid young,’’ court records show.
The girls identified several hotels where Wilson-Lackey had them turn tricks. He would leave the hotel room while the sex acts took place and held onto the money, federal investigators said.
Wilson-Lackey, the father of three, admitted to recruiting the minors, but his attorney notes “it was not a difficult recruitment.’’
“No threat, force or violence was used to recruit the minors or maintain the minors working in prostitution,’’ defense attorney Deno P. Fotieo wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “In fact, the minors simply stopped working for (Wilson-Lackey) in favor of another.’’
State and federal authorities say arrests for prostitution and human trafficking-related crimes continue to rise. The state logged 409 arrests in 2014, an increase of 25 percent from the previous year. State officials estimate that 40 percent of human trafficking cases involve the sexual exploitation of children.
(© 2016 WZZM)