HOUSTON – A 22-year-old Houston man has been handed a
significant federal prison sentence following his convictions of trafficking
two children under the age of 18 for commercial sex, announced Acting U.S.
Attorney Abe Martinez. Antonio Rasheed Benjamin aka “Papi P” pleaded guilty
March 24, 2017.
Today, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon ordered Benjamin
to prison for 360 months. Following that 30-year-sentence, Benjamin will serve
10 years of supervised release, during which time he will have to comply with
numerous requirements designed to restrict his access to children and the
Internet. He will also be ordered to register as a sex offender.
The investigation into Benjamin began after a woman he had
assaulted contacted authorities in March 2016.
Benjamin knew the girls were minors and groomed them to
engage in commercial sex by promising them riches and a lavish lifestyle. He
arranged for girls to work as strippers and prostitute for him. He regularly
transported women to and from strip clubs, rented hotel rooms for the purpose
of commercial sex acts and posted ads on backpage.com advertising the girls.
Benjamin took all of the money the minors earned.
One of the victims said she felt obligated to live with
Benjamin and was forced to prostitute for him. He would site next to her and
instruct her on what to say to customers on the phone. She indicated that while
she was with him, she worked every day and averaged two or more customers per
night. Another victim stated that girls who stripped in clubs for him had to
make $100 a night or “there were consequences.”
On more than one occasion, Benjamin left one of the victims
stranded in unknown locations. Another victim recounted an incident in which
Benjamin had punched her in the chest and it hurt for days.
Benjamin has been and will remain in custody pending
transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near
The Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) conducted the
investigation. HTRA law enforcement includes members of the FBI, Immigration
and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Houston Police
Department, sheriff’s offices in Harris and Montgomery counties, Texas
Alcoholic and Beverage Commission, Texas Attorney General’s Office, Department
of State, Department of Labor, IRS and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Established in 2004, the United States Attorney’s office in
Houston formed the HTRA to combine resources with federal, state and local
enforcement agencies and prosecutors, as well as non-governmental service
organizations to target human traffickers while providing necessary services to
those that the traffickers victimized. Since its inception, HTRA has been
recognized as a national model in identifying and assisting victims of human
trafficking and prosecuting those engaged in trafficking offenses. In
2016, the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance received $1.5 million in federal
funds from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office for Victims of Crime
through the Enhanced Collaborative Model Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force
Program, which provides funding to investigate and prosecute cases of human
trafficking and provide services to victims.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Zack is prosecuting this