Jury Convicts Fresno Man of Sex Trafficking of a Minor
|U.S. Attorney’s Office August 09, 2013|
FRESNO, CA—After a four-day trial, a jury found Maurice Hunt, 35, of Fresno, guilty of one count of sex trafficking of a minor, three counts of obstruction of justice, and two counts of tampering with witnesses, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced. The trial was before United States District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill, and toward the end of the trial, Hunt, who acted as his own attorney, refused to participate. The jury took less than an hour to bring back guilty verdicts on all counts.
According to evidence presented at trial, Hunt met the 13-year-old victim in October 2011 when she was a runaway and alone. Within days of their meeting, Hunt began to prostitute her and then, following a dispute, beat her with fists, feet, and a stick, leaving her covered in bruises. He continued to prostitute the victim for the next few days, including taking the victim and two other females to Bakersfield for two nights, where the victim continued to engage in prostitution for him.
Once they returned to Fresno, the victim’s uncle saw her working as a prostitute on the streets and rescued her. Several days later, she was back attending classes at her middle school when a social worker noticed the bruises and called the police.
After Hunt’s arrest, Hunt reached out during jail visits and recorded jail calls to people he knew, directing them to make contact with the victim and two of the witnesses in order to intimidate them and prevent them from testifying against him.
“As the evidence in this case demonstrates, those who traffic in young girls can be particularly brutal,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “That is why we have focused on cases involving the sex trafficking of minors. As a result of his convictions today, Maurice Hunt will be spending many years behind bars where he cannot harm other girls.”
“This case highlights the severe abuse and control that vulnerable children are often subjected to when they fall victim to violent predators like Hunt. He attempted to avoid detection and prosecution through lies and intimidation, hoping to preserve his illegal commercial interests while showing complete disregard for his victim’s welfare,” said FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Sacramento Division Manuel Alvarez, Jr. “The FBI is committed to locating and recovering children who are commercially sexually exploited. Our goal is to give the victims a fighting chance at a normal life and to bring to justice the violent predators who target the children of the communities we serve.”
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Fresno Police Department’s Vice Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Elana S. Landau and Michael Frye are prosecuting the case.
Hunt is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge O’Neill on October 28, 2013, at 11:00 a.m. For the count of sex trafficking of a minor, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years up to life in prison. The obstruction of justice counts carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The witness intimidation counts carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.