Two sentenced for sex trafficking of minors

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Ashford James “AJ” Simmons, 29, of Gray Court, and Brittany Nicole Smith, 24, of Piedmont,  were recently sentenced for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C. § 1594(c). Simmons was also sentenced for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). United States According to United States Attorney Beth Drake, District Judge Timothy M. Cain, of Anderson, sentenced Simmons to 210 months imprisonment, followed by a life term of supervised release, and sentenced Smith to 57 months imprisonment, followed by 5 years of supervised release. The defendants are also required to pay $14,480 each in restitution to the victims.
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearings and sentencings established that from May through June of 2015, Simmons and Smith recruited minor females to work as prostitutes for them, including one minor they recruited from a juvenile drug rehabilitation center. The defendants advertised commercial sex acts with the minors online and received proceeds from the sale of sex acts performed by the minors. Additionally, authorities determined that Simmons possessed a loaded Sig Sauer .40 caliber handgun while traveling in a car with one of the trafficked minors on May 30, 2015. As a previously convicted felon, Simmons was prohibited from carrying or possessing a firearm or ammunition. Arguing for leniency at his sentencing, Simmons compared selling the minors for sex to investing in the stock market. Smith, Simmons’ girlfriend, received comparably less time, in part, because she had no prior convictions, there was no indication that she possessed weapons, and because Simmons was identified as the leader of the sex trafficking operation.
The case was investigated by agents of ICE-Homeland Security Investigations, Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, and Newberry County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Jamie Lea Schoen and Carrie Fisher Sherard of the Greenville Office prosecuted the case. United States Attorney Beth Drake made the announcement.