Milford hotel

Man convicted of sex trafficking underage girls at Milford hotel


HARTFORD >> A jury found a New York man guilty on Monday in a United States district court of sex trafficking two minors, aged 16 and 17 at the time.

Edward “Fire” Thomas, 40, recruited the girls and took them to hotels in Connecticut, including Milford, where the teens performed sex acts in exchange for money, which they then handed to Thomas. .

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Thomas responded to an Internet prostitution ad for a 17-year-old girl in Oregon and then urged her to come to New York to work for him. She eventually agreed and traveled to New York City with a second daughter, aged 16, using the bus tickets Thomas bought.

US lawyer Deirdre Daly said Thomas “preyed on the vulnerabilities of two girls he lured 3,000 miles from their home.”

“The US attorney’s office is committed to prosecuting those who manipulate minors into committing sexual acts – often under threat of violence – and generously profiting from such illegal and reprehensible conduct,” Daly said.

The trial began before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny in Hartford on January 15. Jurors heard closing arguments on Friday and delivered the verdict early Monday afternoon.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, after the teens arrived in New York City, they went with Thomas to a hotel in Milford, where they met Kayla Walters, Thomas’s co-accused, and posted commercials about prostitution. in line. The teens then engaged in commercial sex acts under the direction of Thomas.

While one teenager escaped from a hotel window after several hours, the other continued to work for Thomas for about a month and turned over all the money to Thomas, federal prosecutors said. At one point, she tried to leave, but Thomas forcibly restrained her, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

During the trial, Special Agent Timothy Kobelia of the Federal Bureau of Investigation testified that he received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding an online advertisement in which the woman shown looked young. The ad described the woman as a “Hawaiian – Italian beauty” available in Milford.

In October 2012, Kobelia called the phone number and posed as a guest, and he testified that he was directed to a Howard Johnson hotel in Milford. Investigators approached staff and learned that Walters, who had a Kentucky driver’s license, had rented two rooms. Agents learned that Walters was not the woman depicted in the online post, but found separate online ads featuring Walters.

Officers subsequently arranged to retrieve the minor pictured in the ad in early November 2012. They reportedly found the woman in the ad in a bed, covered with a sheet and appearing to be unconscious.

Investigators took the teenager to Yale-New Haven Hospital, and she then spent time in a program for trafficked girls. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Thomas recruited the same girl a second time in July 2013 and again paid her to travel from Oregon to the East Coast. Authorities picked her up again from a hotel in Milford.

Law enforcement seized nearly $ 4,000 in cash from Thomas during the first recovery, along with several computers and cellphones, prosecutors said.

During the trial, jurors saw telephone tapes and photographs that officials found on the devices. There were photographs of Milford’s original tip miner in lingerie, as well as provocative photographs of Walters and a second miner. Some photographs of Thomas’ electronics showed images of women investigators have yet to identify, Kobelia testified. A photo shown to jurors showed Thomas holding a wad of $ 100 bills. One photograph described one of the minors: “This is my new Hawaiian (expletive),” according to evidence presented at trial.

The program took place at various hotels in Connecticut.

Patricia Ferrick, special agent in charge of the New Haven Division of the FBI, said Monday in a press release on the verdict, “Trafficking in human beings, especially for the purpose of child prostitution, is a heinous crime. The FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to aggressively prosecute and hold these criminals accountable. “

Thomas was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit the sex trafficking of a minor and two counts of sex trafficking of a minor. Chatigny has set his sentence for April 17, when Thomas risks between 10 years and life imprisonment.

In November, Walters, 23, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor. Federal guidelines provide that Walters could face between 87 and 108 months in prison.

Thomas and Walters have been held since their indictment in February 2014. According to the US Attorney’s Office, Thomas’s criminal history includes a 2007 conviction in New Jersey for promoting prostitution with a child under 18.

To report suspected child exploitation crimes, contact the FBI at 203-777-6311.

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