Nine men and three women were arrested on charges relating to sex trafficking children in the Galveston area, acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez said Friday.
Twelve people were taken into custody in cities around southeast Texas, including in Brazoria, Harris and Jefferson counties.
Ten face charges of conspiracy to traffic children for the purpose of commercialized sex, sex trafficking of children and sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, Martinez said. Two were indicted on a charge of using an interstate facility to promote sex trafficking of children, he said.
The cases are in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Galveston.
The defendants are accused of using sexually oriented websites to advertise illicit business involving four minors, as young as 16, for commercial sex, Martinez said. The girls were forced into posing for pictures in online advertisements for sex and were coerced into having sex for pay, Martinez said.
Those accused of sex trafficking conspiracy face up to life in prison if convicted, Martinez said. The charges of using an interstate facility to promote sex trafficking of children could be punished with up to five years in prison, he said. Two men accused of child pornography face an additional 30 years in prison if convicted, he said.
According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Joseph Church, 31, and Angela Marks, 23, both of Sweeney; Jamaal Crane, 25, of Angleton; Norris Moon, 23, and Christopher Walton, 23, both of Brazoria; Ronnie Beasley, 19, of Rosharon; and William Franklin, 18, of Wharton were arrested in a coordinated effort with federal and local law enforcement.
Jamier Coleman, 20, and Lurkesha Baugh, 35, both of Wharton, were previously in state custody on unrelated charges, authorities said.
Other people charged include Alisa Kimbler, 24, of Freeport, who is already in federal custody on similar charges. Stephanie Walker, 35, of Houston, was arrested in Beaumont on Thursday. Eric Page, 19, was taken into custody on unrelated charges on Wednesday in Sherman, authorities said.
With the exception of Walker and Kimbler, who were indicted on a charge of using an interstate facility to promote sex trafficking of children, all are charged with conspiracy to traffic children for the purpose of commercialized sex, sex trafficking of children and sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, Martinez said.
Church and Marks are also charged with production of child pornography. Moon and Walton have an additional charge of carrying a firearm while engaging in the crime of sex trafficking of minors, Martinez said.
The accused were slated for a counsel hearing in Galveston on Monday, U.S. attorney’s office spokeswoman Angela Dodge said.
The U.S. attorney’s office refused to provide booking photographs of the accused, citing departmental policy.