INDIANAPOLIS – Within days of running away from a foster parent's home, a 15-year-old girl was working as “Ms. Violet,” a prostitute allegedly handing over all the cash she made to two pimps.
She worked under strict rules. She was to make $900 a night. She was to call the 26-year-old ring leader "Daddy” in front of his friends. And, she was to have sex with him when he wanted.
Her nine-week ordeal ended Oct. 6, 2016, when she was apprehended as a runaway. The teen began telling her story to an Indiana Department of Child Services caseworker who called Indianapolis police. That brought in the FBI.
Her experience is documented in court filings related to a sex trafficking case in the U.S. District Court for Southern Indiana.
On Wednesday, one of three people indicted in the case, Shaquan Meeks, 22, of Indianapolis, was sentenced to the three days she served in jail, one year of supervised probation and 96 hours of community service after pleading guilty to witness tampering. She erased data from a cellphone linked to the case, but there was no suggestion in the court record that she committed prostituion.
The alleged leader of the sex ring, Elijah Vines, 29, of Indianapolis, will face a possible lifetime sentence June 27 after a jury found him guilty of sex trafficking-related charges.
“Vines coerced a vulnerable minor child into performing sex acts for money. In short, he profited through the exploitation of a child,” U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler said in a statement when Vines was convicted.
Vines' alleged partner, Kevin Baker, 27, also faces trafficking-related charges. Baker's girlfriend, Meeks, acknowledged in her guilty plea that she knew Vines and Baker were trafficking the 15-year-old girl.
Of 94 federal U.S. court districts, 79 had at least one defendant in a sex trafficking case involving child victims in 2018. In contrast, 62 of those courts handled at least one defendant in a sex trafficking case that involved adults, according to a study released this month by The Human Trafficking Institute.
Indiana tied last year for ninth among all states in the number of defendants, with 13, in criminal sex trafficking cases involving child victims, according to the report.
On Aug. 6, 2016, the then-15-year-old ninth grader, whose name is not revealed in documents, ran away from her northside Indianapolis foster home, and her foster mother contacted police.
The girl's boyfriend introduced her to a man who trafficked her for two days. She was then "traded" to Vines.
She would later tell police that Vines made her feel "like a dog ... like an animal."
Vines arranged ads for the girl’s services through Backpage.com, a website formerly known as a forum for prostitution.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice seized and shut down Backpage as part of a 93-count indictment charging seven people in the Southwest with crimes involving a conspiracy to facilitate prostitution.
Through Backpage, Vines placed ads offering sexual encounters with two girls; one was "Ms. Violet."
Encounters with clients typically took place in motel rooms. The 15-year-old would handle the cash from her “johns” and place the money in a hotel room Bible. Vines would stay in his car until the sessions ended. He would then go into the room and count the money to be sure the girl had not shorted him.
On Oct. 6, the girl was working in a Southport motel. Baker reportedly wanted her to make extra money, beyond $600 already picked up from that night, by dancing at a strip club, according to documents. She said she was exhausted and fled to a friend’s apartment where she was picked up as a runaway.
Through Backpage, Vines placed ads offering sexual encounters with two girls; one was "Ms. Violet." The second girl, who was not Meeks, was having financial troubles and worked with Baker through Backpage for a 50 percent cut of the money made, according to court documents.