Eric J. Thompson, 29, of Jacksonville, N.C., was sentenced today to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay $19,200 in restitution after pleading guilty on November 9, 2016, to one count of interstate transportation for prostitution and one count of using an interstate facility to promote a prostitution business enterprise. Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney John Stuart Bruce of the Eastern District of North Carolina, and Special Agent in Charge Nick Anan of ICE Homeland Security Investigations Atlanta announced the sentence.
According to documents filed in the case and admissions in connection with the guilty plea, Thompson operated an interstate prostitution business enterprise in North Carolina and South Carolina. He used false promises of money and fame to recruit and entice five women to prostitute for his profit, and then used a scheme involving isolation, threats, and abuse to compel them to continue prostituting. Thompson further filmed himself performing sexual acts with the women and posted those videos online for sale without the victims’ consent.
“Human tracking is a heinous violation of an individual’s rights and freedoms, and today’s sentence sends a clear message that the Department of Justice will work tirelessly on behalf of human trafficking victims in order to stop this appalling criminal activity,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We are grateful for our law enforcement partners and U.S. Attorney Bruce as we combat and dismantle human trafficking networks.”
“Our office was pleased to partner with the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecutions Unit, ICE Homeland Security Investigations Atlanta, and the Raleigh Police Department in this important case. This prosecution gave the victims of this horrific human trafficking crime a voice and an opportunity to seek justice,” said United States Attorney John Stuart Bruce.
“Human trafficking is quite simply, a form of modern-day slavery, and the threats and abuse inflicted on these particular victims only adds to the heinous nature of the crime,” said Special Agent in Charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations Atlanta Nick Annan. “HSI made a record number of more than 2,000 human trafficking arrests in 2016 and rescued more than 400 trafficking victims nationwide, with many of them often hidden in plain sight. HSI will continue our relentless pursuit to investigate and seek prosecution of criminal traffickers while ensuring the victims of this terrible crime are rescued and get the care they need.”
Thompson was indicted on March 16, 2016, and charged with one count of sex trafficking, five counts of interstate transportation for prostitution, one count of using an interstate facility to promote a prostitution business enterprise, and one count of failing to maintain records related to individuals depicted in videos of sexually explicit conduct. A second defendant, Dequann Ross, was charged by information and pleaded guilty on August 9, 2016 to one count of using an interstate facility to promote a prostitution business enterprise for his role in aiding and abetting Thompson. He was sentenced on February 2, 2017, to 30 months in prison.
The case was jointly investigated by ICE Homeland Security Investigation’s Atlanta Division and the Raleigh Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Erin Blondel and Eleanor Morales of the Eastern District of North Carolina and Trial Attorney Vasantha Rao of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.