IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – A recently unsealed federal indictment in Iowa alleges a nationwide sex trafficking ring solicited customers on Backpage.com for prostitutes as young as 17.
The indictment describes a pimp who used coercion and violence to force women between 17 and 21 to work as prostitutes.
Prosecutors say Johnelle Bell of New Jersey traveled with women from Nebraska to Arkansas soliciting customers between 2009 and 2011.
The indictment says Bell advertised on Backpage.com. The site owned by Village Voice Media has been criticized by those who say it profits from sex trafficking. A company spokeswoman didn’t immediately comment on the indictment.
Bell and a woman charged with helping him manage the ring have been arrested. They’re charged in Iowa because they stopped in Des Moines several times. Bell’s attorney declined comment.
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