STOP HUMAN TRAFFICKING

GREENBELT, Md. – U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang sentenced Aaron Crawford, age 37, of Capitol Heights, Maryland, to 20 years in federal prison, followed by 20 years of supervised release, for the sex trafficking of two minors.  Crawford was also sentenced to pay $10,350 in restitution to the victims.  Judge Chuang also ordered that, upon his release from prison, Crawford 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). 

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Chief Malik Aziz of the Prince George’s County Police Department.

“Human trafficking is an insidious crime,” said Attorney General Garland.  “Traffickers exploit and endanger some of the most vulnerable members of our society and cause their victims unimaginable harm.  The Justice Department’s new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking will bring the full force of the Department to this fight.”

“Not only will our office continue to actively prosecute human traffickers to the fullest extent of the law, but we also remain unified with the Department’s comprehensive strategy to combat this heinous and inhumane crime.  The Office’s longstanding history and exemplary work to bring human traffickers to justice is particularly clear in the sentencing of Aaron Crawford.” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, Erek L. Barron.  “Crawford abused, manipulated, threatened, and trafficked two minor victims to line his own pockets from the sex work that they conducted. Let this 20-year sentence be a deterrent to others who may commit human trafficking crimes in Maryland.”

“FBI Baltimore and our law enforcement partners worked tirelessly to ensure this defendant will never intimidate, coerce or victimize a child again,” said Thomas J. Sobocinski, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Baltimore Field Office. “Crawford’s sentence of 20 years will hopefully bring some closure and allow the victims and their families to move forward from these heinous crimes.” 

According to his plea agreement, from April 2019 to December 2019, Crawford recruited, harbored, and transported two minor victims to engage in commercial sex acts. 

Specifically, Crawford posted a juvenile victim (Victim 1) in online advertisements for commercial sex and provided lodging in two locations for Victim 1 where Victim 1 conducted sex “dates.”  Victim 1 was 15-years-old and had been reported missing for two months at the time.  Crawford instructed Victim 1 to send sexually explicit images to him for the online advertisements; these images constituted child pornography.  Upon further investigation, law enforcement located numerous communications on Crawford’s phone between Crawford, Victim 1, and sex procurers between November 5, 2019 and December 6, 2019.  Crawford sent “johns” the addresses where Victim 1 was kept on 182 occasions. The majority of the communications were related to facilitating prostitution in various locations in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Further, in January 2020, law enforcement officers were advised that a 16-year-old female (Victim 2) had been trafficked by an individual known as “Fly.”  In an interview with law enforcement, Victim 2 positively identified Crawford as the individual she knew as “Fly.” Crawford first met Victim 2 in March 2017 when Victim 2 was 13-years-old.  Later, after they met again in April 2019, Crawford introduced Victim 2 to an adult female who encouraged Victim 2 to work as a prostitute.  After Victim 2 engaged in commercial sex dates, Crawford refused to share the profits with Victim 2.  Victim 2 then left with the adult female.  When they met again in August 2019, Victim 2 performed sex acts for customers at Crawford’s direction at an apartment complex and a parking lot.  When Victim 2 declined to engage in further commercial sex dates, Crawford raped Victim 2 and threatened to kill her if she did not engage in more sex dates.  Victim 2 escaped soon thereafter when Crawford left the apartment complex where he was keeping her.  She then deleted the text communication application that Crawford used to contact her so that he could no longer communicate with her.

After his arrest, investigators discovered that Crawford’s cell phone contained communications with numerous women where Crawford attempted to recruit them to work for him as commercial sex workers.  In at least two of the conversations, the women identified themselves as minors.

As a founding member of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office pledges to continue to combat human trafficking by working with our partners to investigate and prosecute traffickers and rescue victims.  The Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force (MHTTF) was formed in 2007 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Attorney General of Maryland, and the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City to serve as the lead investigative, prosecutorial, and victim services coordinating body for anti-human trafficking activity in the State of Maryland. The MHTTF is a multidisciplinary team of agencies and organizations committed to a victim-centered approach in the fight against human trafficking in Maryland.  Our record of success in rescuing and serving a range of labor and sex trafficking victims is irrespective of gender, nationality, sexual orientation, or age.  Our communities, including the vulnerable victims who are the targets of traffickers, benefit greatly from awareness of the types of human trafficking; indicators of human trafficking; and resources available to survivors of human trafficking.

On January 31, 2022, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland released the Justice Department’s new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking pursuant to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which aims to enhance the department’s capacity to prevent human trafficking; to prosecute human trafficking cases; and to support and protect human trafficking victims and survivors.

Among other things, the Justice Department’s multi-year strategy to combat all forms of human trafficking will:

  • Strengthen engagement, coordination and joint efforts to combat human trafficking in U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and by federal law enforcement agents nationwide.
  • Establish federally-funded, locally-led anti-human trafficking task forces that support sustained state law enforcement leadership and comprehensive victim assistance.
  • Step up departmental efforts to end forced labor by increasing attention, resources and coordination in labor trafficking investigations and prosecutions.
  • Develop and implement new victim screening protocols to identify potential human trafficking victims during law enforcement operations and encourage victims to share important information.
  • Increase capacity to provide victim-centered assistance to trafficking survivors, including by supporting efforts to deliver financial restoration to victims.
  • Expand dissemination of federal human trafficking training, guidance and expertise.
  • Advance innovative demand-reduction strategies.

To learn more about the Department’s efforts to combat human trafficking, please visit www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-merrick-b-garland-announces-justice-department-strategy-combat-human.

To learn more about human trafficking indicators visit www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/indicators-human-trafficking.  If you believe that you or someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or Text 233733.

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 Erek L. Barron praised the FBI and the Prince George’s County Police Department for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph R. Baldwin, who prosecuted the case.

For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md/project-safe-childhood and (https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/human-trafficking.

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