EAST ST LOUIS - A former resident of East St. Louis, Illinois, was sentenced Thursday by United States District Court Judge Staci M. Yandle to 360 months in federal prison for one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children by force, fraud, and coercion and three counts of child sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion.
The sentences for Michael Johnson are to run concurrently with each other and with another federal sentence he is already serving. Judge Yandle also sentenced Johnson to five years of supervised release to follow the imprisonment and a $400 special assessment fee.
Facts revealed in open court at the sentencing and plea hearings established that from about late 2009 or early 2010, Johnson and another recruited four girls under the age of 18 on chat lines, online, or simply walking down the street. Using actual physical violence or fear of violence, lies, and mental manipulation, Johnson made the girls have sex with men for money, which he kept. Johnson knew or recklessly disregarded the fact that the girls were under the age of 18 at the time, the FBI reported in a press release.
In praising Judge Yandle’s sentence, United States Attorney Boyce commented: "Most people don’t believe that children could be forced or tricked into prostitution, let alone that it would happen right here in the Southern District of Illinois. But it is true. As this prosecution demonstrates, our own children are forced by fear, lies, manipulation, and threats of violence into selling sex for money.
"Our children deserve better. My office, in conjunction with our law enforcement partners, stands firmly committed to prosecuting those who sexually exploit children. I wholeheartedly commend the four victims in this case for their courage to be heard and their resolve to tell their stories. I am confident that the sentence imposed brings the victims some healing. I encourage the people of this great district to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation or their local police if they see or know that a child has fallen victim to sex trafficking."
Special Agent in Charge, Sean M. Cox, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation further said: "Protecting children from those in our communities who would do them harm is of paramount importance, and it is a responsibility we all bear. In the FBI, as we learn of children being victimized, we will use all legally available tools within our disposal to identify and bring to justice those who would exploit children for their own benefit.
"Beginning in late 2009, Michael Johnson began to recruit minor-aged girls who he then trafficked for the purpose of prostitution. Johnson took advantage of these children, preying on them because of their life situation. To control his victims, he used fear and intimidation. I commend FBI Special Agent Tyrone Forte and Assistant United States Attorney Monica Stump for making our community a safer place and for obtaining justice for those individuals who were exploited and victimized because of the actions taken by Johnson."
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Springfield Division and members of the division’s Child Exploitation Task Force in Fairview Heights. Assistant U.S. Attorney Monica A. Stump is prosecuting the case.