Rochester: Two charged in sex trafficking case
U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced on Friday that 30-year-old Otis Willis and 23-year-old Tiffany St. Denis, both of Rochester, New York, were arrested and charged by criminal complaint sex trafficking of a minor.
The charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life, a USD 250,000 fine, or both.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany H. Lee, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, in March, Amherst Police responded to a report regarding possible prostitution activity at the Red Roof Inn Hotel.
An employee at the hotel recognized a teenage girl as someone being advertised on Backpage.com.
At the hotel, while conducting surveillance, police observed the defendants exit a room along with a 17-year-old. The teenage girl said that she met Willis in Rochester and that she went with him to a residence on Grand Avenue where she met St. Denis.
Both defendants tried to convince the victim to engage in prostitution activities and pose for provocative photographs. Willis also told the victim to go by another name. Investigators determined that two customers paid to have sex with the victim and St. Denis at the Red Roof Inn.
The complaint further alleges that in August, the FBI was contacted concerning the possible prostitution of another young girl.
On this occasion, a 16-year-old girl was allegedly promoted for prostitution by two individuals later identified as the defendants.
The victim told authorities that she received cocaine for free from St. Denis. The defendant soon told the victim that she had engage in prostitution in order to continue receiving cocaine. When the victim expressed her desire to stop engaging in prostitution and go home, Willis beat her up.
"Forcing a young person into prostitution through violence has to be one of the most deplorable crimes not only in our country but across the globe," said U.S. Attorney Hochul. "Exploiting the vulnerabilities of any individual for financial gain is also something this office will not tolerate."
The defendants made an initial appearance this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marian W. Payson and are being detained pending a detention hearing on December 19, at 12:15 p.m.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.