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SALT LAKE CITY — Eight people have been indicted in federal court with child sex trafficking, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Friday.
A federal grand jury returned four indictments on July 21. Members of the FBI and Salt Lake City Police Department executed arrest warrants and rounded up suspects on Tuesday. The indictments were unsealed late Wednesday.
Abiodu Damiloca Salankole, 20, of West Jordan, is charged with two counts of sex trafficking of children in one indictment. The victims in that case are two minors, according to U.S. Attorney's Office
Gloire Seba, 21, of Sandy, and Kyle Jason Hale, 21, of Riverton, are charged in a nine-count indictment with sex trafficking of children, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and transporting a minor for prostitution. The victims in that case are four minors, according to prosecutors.
Saquan Marcell Smith, 23, and Raquel Consuela Knell, 21, both of Salt Lake City, are named in a third indictment accusing them of four counts of sex trafficking of children and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. Their case allegedly involved two minors.
Ashley Nicole Poike, 23, of Sandy, Hector Yordano Irizarry Castro, 24, of Salt Lake City, and Thomas Marte-Pena, 27, of Salt Lake City, were named in a nine-count indictment alleging sex trafficking of children, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, transportation with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. That case involved one adult victim and two minor victims, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Although the suspects in each indictment were working separately from the others, they were all arrested as part of the same operation, U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber said. Some of the alleged victims accounted for the charges in more than one indictment.
Huber declined to provide many details about the alleged victims, their ages or where they came from, except to say it would be more accurate to say it was a case of sex trafficking of minors and not "children."
"You're not talking about very small children," he said.
Likewise, Huber said if it were a case of minors being abducted off the street and then forced into prostitution, the charges would have reflected that. He declined to explain Friday how the minors became involved in sex trafficking.
According to the indictments, some of the sex trafficking incidents date back to 2012. Some of the victims were transported to parts of Idaho, including Pocatello, to "engage in prostitution," according to the indictment.
Very few crimes are as serious as crimes against children. Anytime we can disrupt that cycle of violence, it's a huge step in the right direction.
–Salt Lake City Interim Police Chief Mike Brown
Many of the defendants are accused of recruiting or enticing the victims into sex trafficking and also harboring and transporting them.
In February, Salankole was convicted of exploiting a prostitute, according to Utah state court records. In that case, a 17-year-old girl started dating Salankole in 2013, but he soon became her "pimp," according to charging documents. She told investigators that he would post ads on backpage.com seeking clients, she would have sex for money and then give Salankole half.
That same month, he pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery in 3rd District Court in a case that came with gang and weapons enhancements.
"Very few crimes are as serious as crimes against children," Salt Lake City Interim Police Chief Mike Brown said in a prepared statement. "Anytime we can disrupt that cycle of violence, it's a huge step in the right direction."
Residents are encouraged to be alert and report to authorities anytime they see something suspicious, such when a young person is with an adult but the context doesn't look normal.
"If something doesn't look right, if a hotel operator or a neighbor sees something that doesn't look quite right, then we need to look into it. We need to be looking out, in particular, for minors in our community so they're not exploited," Huber said. "Unfortunately, sex trafficking is a problem in Utah and throughout the country."
If something doesn't look right, if a hotel operator or a neighbor sees something that doesn't look quite right, then we need to look into it. We need to be looking out, in particular, for minors in our community so they're not exploited. Unfortunately, sex trafficking is a problem in Utah and throughout the country.
–John Huber, U.S. Attorney for Utah
All defendants made initial appearances in federal court Wednesday and entered pleas of not guilty. Knell and Kyle were released under supervision of the U.S. Probation Office. The six others have detention hearings scheduled for Monday.
If convicted, each defendant charged with child sex trafficking faces a 10-year mandatory-minimum sentence with the potential to be sentenced to up to life in federal prison.
Transporting a minor for prostitution carries the same potential sentence.
Those charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking could also be sentenced up to life in federal prison. Transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity has a potential maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Contributing: Nkoyo Iyamba
- The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition has a statewide, 24-hour hotline for victims of domestic violence at 1-800-897-LINK (5465).
- The Division of Child and Family Services offers counseling, teaches parenting skills and conflict resolution and can connect the family with community resources. Their goal is to keep children with their family when it is "possible and safe," according to their website. Visitdcfs.utah.gov/questions/or call 1-800-323-DCFS (3237) for resources or to report child abuse or neglect.
- The Christmas Box House acts as a temporary shelter for children and can provide them with new clothing and shoes, among other services. Call the Salt Lake office at 801-747-2201 or the Ogden office at 801-866-0350.