COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A man who authorities say ran a prostitution ring in three different states and his mother were both sentenced in federal court in Columbia on Wednesday.
Evidence shown at trial revealed that Samuel Pratt, 35, of Gastonia, NC, ran a prostitution business that involved both teens and adults. The business operated in South Carolina, North Carolina, and New York. His mother, 53-year-old Daphne Pratt, also helped run the business for a period of time.
Prosecutors called his prostitution ring a look "into the seedy world of human trafficking in the Carolinas." Two of the victims were 14 and 17 years old.
"Witnesses provided extensive testimony of the manipulation and abuse, as well as the inner-workings of the human trafficking operation," prosecutors said.
Samuel Pratt, who was previously found guilty on eight counts of sex trafficking, child pornography, and firearms charges, was the first human trafficker convicted at trial in South Carolina. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Daphne Pratt was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to sex traffic minors and testifying against her son. The testimony led to a reduced sentence.
During the trial, Daphne Pratt testified to her son's control of the teens in addition to her role in running his business while he was in prison on federal charges.
"Telephone calls recorded from the jail corroborated Daphne Pratt's testimony and, along with text messages, provided the jury a view of the depraved world of sex traffickers," prosecutors said.
In addition, more than $40,000 in restitution was ordered to be paid to the child victims.
"The first step in addressing the cancer of human trafficking is to hold the traffickers accountable and that is what this case and this sentence does," U.S. District of South Carolina Attorney Beth Drake said. "Those who traffic in sex need to take notice that our office, along with our federal and state law enforcement partners, will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute all those who operate in this destructive field."
The case was investigated by agents of the FBI of both South Carolina and North Carolina, the ATF, the US Marshals and Richland County Sheriff's Department.