An Alabama man has been sentenced to 60 years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $1 million in damages for sex trafficking at least five victims, including a minor.
U.S. District Judge Austin Huffaker Jr. in the middle district of Alabama returned the sentence to 36-year-old Lonnie Dontae Mitchell.
Mitchell was convicted in June of forcing victims into prostitution over a period of several years.
Federal authorities said Mitchell targeted vulnerable people who used drugs and encouraged them to inject heroin. He then withheld the drug to punish and control his victims’ behavior.
He also threatened his victims with violence and the prospect of leaking embarrassing information and photos to their family members, and withheld their IDs and credit cards.
Mitchell also regulated how much and when the victims were allowed to eat.
“The defendant used unspeakable force and manipulated the victims’ drug problems in order to control their every move and exploit them for his own financial gain,” said Deputy Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Human trafficking is a cruel crime that targets some of the most vulnerable members of our society, cruelly depriving them of their dignity and freedom. The Department of Justice remains committed to prioritizing the prosecution of human trafficking and defending the rights of victims of these heinous crimes.”
Mitchell had two co-defendants, including his sister, Nettisia Mitchell. Authorities said Nettisia witnessed her brother’s violence against a victim, but the victim harbored and received revenue from the victim’s involvement in commercial sex.
She pleaded guilty to sex trafficking conspiracy and was sentenced to 120 months in prison.
Donna Emmons pleaded guilty to the same charge and was sentenced to 151 months in prison.
The Department of Homeland Security, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the Montgomery Police Department were investigating the case.
Assistant US Attorneys J. Patrick Lamb and MaryLou Bowdre for the Middle District of Alabama and Trial Attorney Kate Alexander of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecutor’s Office prosecuted the case.
“Today’s verdict reflects the appalling treatment and abuse of his victims by the defendant,” said Sandra J. Stewart, US Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. “Although their physical injuries will heal, the emotional damage caused by their suffering will last a lifetime.”