Two individuals have been sentenced on sex trafficking charges after marketing young girls as escorts and forcing them to perform sexual acts, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced in a release this week.
Eric Bell, who had previously been featured on “America’s Most Wanted” in June 2011, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison. His co-conspirator, Neang Prom, received three years in federal prison. The sentencing followed a nearly two-year investigation led by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Clearwater Human Trafficking Task Force.
“I trusted them with my life, and they took it for granted,” one of Bell and Prom’s victims said in court. “Being forced into prostitution hurt me. I try to forget about it, but I can’t. Even now, I think it is okay to sell my body. And it hurts every time I do it. It feels like I am selling my soul to the devil.”
Detectives and special agents began conducting surveillance on Bell and Prom’s residence after receiving information from a victim of sex trafficking that lead to the discovery of several Craigslist advertisements, a MySpace account and an Internet Protocol address used by Prom.
In 2010, special agents executed a federal search warrant at the residence and seized various items including firearms, ammunition, body armor, digital cameras and cell phones.
“Bell tried to barricade himself in the attic of his residence to avoid being arrested when we executed the search warrant,” said Sue McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “Our law enforcement partners had to resort to using tear gas so we could arrest him.”
Bell eventually skipped town after posting bail. HSI and FBI special agents caught up to him in August 2011 in Parsippany, N.J. He later pleaded guilty to sex trafficking minors.
“Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes our special agents investigate,” McCormick said. “This case was particularly unnerving because it involved the sex trafficking of minors. Thanks to the efforts of HSI, the Clearwater Human Trafficking Task Force and the FBI, Eric Bell can no longer exploit young girls for his own gain.”