BALTIMORE – Leon R. Harrison, age 56, of Washington D.C., pleaded guilty today to sex trafficking of a minor, for having sex with a 15-year-old girl in exchange for money.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Acting Special Agent in Charge Cardell T. Morant of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Chief Tim Altomare of the Anne Arundel County Police Department; and Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess.
“Children cannot consent to have sex for money, and any adult who encourages or profits from sexual exploitation of children faces a lengthy term in federal prison,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur.
According his plea agreement, between August 9, 2016 and February 7, 2018, Harrison used his Facebook account to send messages to hundreds of other Facebook users, offering them money in exchange for sending him sexually explicit pictures, watching him masturbate, or meeting with him in person to engage in commercial sex. Several Facebook users told Harrison that they were under 18 years old, and as young as 12 years old. Harrison continued to make the requests even after they stated that they were minors.
Harrison admitted that he met Girl 1 online and began engaging in commercial sex with Girl 1 beginning in 2016 or 2017, when she would have been 13 or 14 years old.
On October 9, 2017, Harrison and Girl 1 reconnected on Facebook, after a period of not communicating with each other. Between October 9, 2017, and February 7, 2018, Harrison and Girl 1 exchanged hundreds of messages over Facebook. At that time, Girl 1 was at a 15-year-old tenth-grade student in Maryland. In the messages, Harrison repeatedly offered to pay Girl 1 in exchange for having sex with him. In twelve instances, Harrison offered her between $40 and $60 for sex.
On February 6, 2018, Girl 1’s mother discovered the Facebook messages and contacted the police. That day, an undercover police detective began operating Girl 1’s Facebook account.
On February 7, 2018, Harrison continued communicating with Girl 1’s Facebook account. Harrison stated that he would meet with Girl 1 that evening, and that he would bring money and condoms. Harrison stated he would pay Girl 1 $50 to have sex with him and made arrangements to meet with Girl 1 at a restaurant in Odenton, Maryland. Harrison agreed that he would get Girl 1 home before 1:00 a.m. because it was a “school night.” Harrison described the sex acts he wished to engage in with Girl 1 and what he wanted her to wear when they met. Harrison also asked to engage in sexual contact with Girl 1 without a condom.
When he arrived at the restaurant, Harrison had condoms, $50 in cash, and two 50ml bottles of flavored vodka in his pants pockets. Harrison was arrested in the parking lot. Following his arrest, Harrison was interviewed by law enforcement officers and admitted that he is HIV-positive, and that he does not disclose that fact to his sexual partners.
As part of his plea agreement, Harrison must register as a sex offender in the places where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).
Harrison and the government have agreed that if the Court accepts the plea, Harrison will be sentenced to between 10 and 16 years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake has scheduled sentencing for May 29, 2019, at 9:15 a.m.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc. For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the “Resources” tab on the left of the page.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended HSI, the Anne Arundel County Police, and the Anne Arundel State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zachary A. Myers and Ray D. McKenzie, who are prosecuting the case.