A New Jersey man is sentenced to 30 years in prison in connection with a prostitution ring that spanned several states.
A U.S. District Court judge sentenced 29-year-old Johnelle Lewis Bell of Hammonton, New Jersey, after he was found guilty by a federal grand jury on 12 counts related to sex trafficking.
The charges stemmed form a prostitution sting set up in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area by the FBI and local authorities in Iowa and Nebraska.
The FBI answered an on-line ad and an undercover agent arranged a date with a prostitute. That encounter led to Bell and three women who were running the ring.
The evidence in the case showed Bell sought out women between the ages of 19 and 23 years of age — with at least two aged 16 or 17 — who had mental and emotional problems or were homeless.
Bell would promise to help them, but instead forced them into prostitution and threatened to harm them or their families if they did not do what he told them.
Evidence produced at trial showed the traveling prostitution venture operated in at least Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, and Tennessee.