MN man found guilty of coercing multiple women into prostitution

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A Minnesota man accused of coercing multiple women into the sex trafficking industry – which involved the use of promises and physical violence – was found guilty by a jury Tuesday.

Ramsey County jurors found Rashad Ramon Ivy, a 35-year-old from St. Paul, guilty on multiple counts, including engaging in sex trafficking, solicitation to practice prostitution, and criminal sexual conduct, according to the county attorney's office.

It's the eighth time in the past 31 months that a jury trial led to a conviction of a sex trafficker, the release notes.

Ivy and two other defendants recruited multiple women into the sex trafficking business by promising them they'd make money, get new cars and "live the dream," according to the criminal complaint filed against him.

From an SUV, the men would approach women on the street and lure them back to an apartment, where they would then use "enticements, coercion and physical violence" to convince them to enter into prostitution, the complaint says.

According to the charges, in one case, a victim was signed up on two websites under false names, while Ivy and another suspect would then arrange "dates." The victim was later beaten by Ivy and needed medical attention at University Hospital – where she reported the abuse to staff and which led to Ivy's arrest, the county attorney's release says.

The charges also include stories of Ivy forcing women into performing sex acts, holding a child hostage "to compel cooperation" from a victim, physically assaulting women, and showing a woman he attempted to recruit how the operation functioned.

Ivy is set to be sentenced May 20.

“Unlike the movies, it’s often not brutal kidnapping like in 'Taken,' or consensual and victimless as depicted in 'Pretty Woman,'" Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said. "It’s about vulnerable women and girls being tricked, exploited and sold for sex by ruthless traffickers to complicit men in our community.”

Tarris Leeshawn Trapps, a co-defendant, pleaded guilty on Jan. 25 and faces sentencing on May 23. Danika Sterling Johnson pleaded guilty last November, and was sentenced on Feb. 5 to a year in the workhouse.

Sex trafficking in Minnesota

The 2014 Human Trafficking in Minnesota report (prepared every two years by the state’s Department of Justice) found convictions for sex trafficking more than doubled, going from 31 in 2012 to 63 in 2013 – despite fewer suspects being charged with such a crime in the latter year.

In the five years prior, there had never been more than 18 such convictions in a single year.

Meanwhile Hennepin and Ramsey counties have been working to combat sex trafficking, especially in the wake of the passage of Minnesota’s Safe Harbor Law.

The law went into full effect in 2014 and was used as a model for a federal law to combat sex trafficking. It aims to ensure that minors who are sold for sex aren’t viewed as delinquents, but are treated as victims and given assistance through various services across the state.

More than 150 minors sought help for sexual exploitation in the first full year of the program, according to the Safe Harbor First Year Evaluation Overview that was released in November.

At the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force’s quarterly meeting, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput and Assistant Ramsey County Attorney David Pinto said they want tougher sentences for people convicted in sex trafficking cases – including having those who buy sex from minors register as sex offenders, KSTP reports.

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