Northern District of Georgia | Five individuals sentenced for their role in sex trafficking scheme

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ATLANTA – Five individuals have been sentenced for their involvement in a sex trafficking scheme that occurred throughout the Northern District of Georgia. The conduct came to light after a minor victim was reported missing in Miami, Florida when her parents realized she failed to board a flight to Honduras. The minor had been transported by two defendants to Georgia and forced to commit commercial sex acts and participate in “sex parties.” 

“Sex trafficking exploits and traumatizes some of the most vulnerable members of our society,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan.  “Sex trafficking victims from immigrant communities can be especially fearful of reporting these crimes. So, our office is grateful for the diligence of our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners who remained steadfast in achieving the trust of the victims in this case and helping to secure justice for these young girls and their families.”

“These criminals were more concerned with their own selfishness and greed than the terrible circumstances they exposed minors to,” said Brian Ozden, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “These crimes are among the most depraved on the books. With a victim-centered approach, the FBI will continue working with our law enforcement partners to hold those who choose to prey on our most vulnerable citizens accountable.”

“The investigators and U.S. Attorney’s office did a great job prosecuting this case.  I am pleased that the Dalton Police Department was able to play a role in getting these individuals off the streets,” said Dalton Police Chief Cliff Cason.

According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: Brian Hernandez Acosta, along with co-defendants Nilageo Alvarez Acosta, Jaime Adam Riano, Anthony Joseph Lawhon, and Brandi Rice Stumpe, conspired to traffic minor girls for commercial sex throughout North Georgia.  Beginning in or around November 2015, and continuing until December 2016, the defendants caused at least six girls between 16 and 17 years old to engage in prostitution, including by using force, fraud, and coercion.

Hernandez Acosta, after pursuing some of the girls on Facebook and Snapchat, posted provocative photographs of them in the adult entertainment and escort sections of Backpage.com, a classified advertisement website seized by the Department of Justice.   Hernandez Acosta used these ads to solicit men to engage in sex with the minors for money. The advertisements used fake names for the minors and falsely listed the girls’ ages as between 19 through 21 years old. 

Hernandez Acosta and his brother, Alvarez Acosta, forced one 16-year-old girl to engage in sex with men after driving her from Florida to Georgia after falsely claiming they would provide the girl a place to live. The defendants required the young girls to engage in sex acts with multiple men each night and kept a large portion of the money they earned. Riano acted as the co-defendants’ driver and transported the minors to hotel locations throughout the district, where the girls were forced to engage in commercial sex acts.

Between July 2016 and December 2016, co-defendants Anthony Joseph Lawhon and Brandi Rice Stumpe hosted numerous sex parties at their residence in Canton, Georgia, where they engaged in sex acts with minor girls and young women, while plying them with alcohol and cocaine. Investigators recovered images of some of this conduct on Hernandez Acosta’s cellphone. Lawhon paid Hernandez Acosta thousands of dollars in exchange for commercial sex and cocaine.

Chief U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr. sentenced the defendants for their respective roles in the criminal scheme as follows:

  • Jaime Adam Riano, 34, of East Ridge, Tennessee, was sentenced to seven years in prison to be followed by 10 years of supervised release. Riano pleaded guilty on November 17, 2017, to two counts of sex trafficking children under 18 years old.
  • Nilageo Alvarez-Acosta, 37, of Camaguey, Cuba, was sentenced to 23 years in prison to be followed by 20 years of supervised release. Alvarez-Acosta pleaded guilty on April 11, 2019, to the offense of sex trafficking of a minor, transportation of a minor for prostitution, and two counts of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor.
  • Hernandez Acosta, 32 of Havana, Cuba, was sentenced to 30 years in prison to be followed by 20 years of supervised release.  Acosta was sentenced after pleading guilty on July 1, 2019, to conducting a child exploitation enterprise, sex trafficking minors by force, fraud, or coercion, sex trafficking of children under 18 years old, transporting a minor in interstate commerce for prostitution, producing child pornography, and distributing cocaine to a person under 21 years old.
  • Brandi Rice Stumpe, 40, of Powder Springs, Georgia, was sentenced to five years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release, including 100 hours of community service. Stumpe pleaded guilty on August 5, 2020, to the offense of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor.
  • Anthony Joseph Lawhon, 44, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to 10 years in prison to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release after pleading guilty on April 14, 2022, to the offense of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Dalton Police Department.  The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the Murray County Sheriff’s Office also provided assistance.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dash A. Cooper and Phyllis Clerk, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzette Smikle, prosecuted the case.

This case is part of Project Safe Childhood. In February 2006, the Attorney General launched Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse.  Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices around the country, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

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