Federal Jury Convicts Ohio Man in Sex Trafficking Ring Involving Minors Brought to Chicago from Iowa
CHICAGO—An Ohio man was convicted yesterday for his role in a sex trafficking conspiracy involving minor girls who were transported to Chicago from Iowa to engage in prostitution.
WILLIE WOODS, 44, of Toledo, Ohio, helped transport the minor girls from Iowa City in 2012. Once in Chicago, Woods and his co-conspirators forced the girls to engage in prostitution. At the time, one victim was 14 years old and the two other victims were each 16 years old.
After a seven-day trial in federal court in Chicago, the jury convicted Woods on one count of sex trafficking conspiracy; three counts of sex trafficking of minors by force, fraud or coercion; one count of transporting minors to engage in prostitution; and one count of obstruction of justice.
The counts for sex trafficking of minors by force, fraud, or coercion are punishable by a mandatory minimum of fifteen years in prison to life and the transportation count is punishable by a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison to life. U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman will schedule a sentencing hearing at a later date.
Woods is among three defendants charged in the case. MALIK McKEE and his sister, SHUNTINA McKEE, both of Iowa City, previously pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking conspiracy. Judge Coleman sentenced Malik McKee to 102 months in prison, plus restitution of $6,000. Shuntina McKee is awaiting sentencing.
Evidence at Woods’ trial revealed that the defendants forced the minor girls to engage in prostitution in Iowa and Chicago. The defendants took photographs of the minors and used them in advertisements on websites, including Backpage.com. When a prospective “date” responded to the advertisement, the defendants arranged the meeting and then pocketed the proceeds.
The three minor girls testified at trial about their ordeals. The girls described the defendants’ violent and abusive acts, which included using power and coercion to force the girls to perform sex acts for money. One of the girls testified that Woods starved her by withholding food until she would submit to his demands to engage in prostitution.
The conviction was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Garry F. McCarthy, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. The FBI and Chicago Police conducted the investigation, in coordination with the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force. Federal prosecutors and law enforcement authorities in the Southern District of Iowa and the Northern District of Ohio also provided assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant United States Attorneys Megan Cunniff Church and Bethany Biesenthal.