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Feds: North Shore man facing sex trafficking charges forced women to sell themselves during pandemic

BOSTON — A North Shore man was indicted Monday in federal court in Boston on sex trafficking charges after investigators say he preyed on women who were struggling with employment and housing when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.

Anthony Coleman, 34, of Lynn is facing charges including three counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion, and one count of transporting a person for purposes of prostitution, according to Acting Massachusetts United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy.

Coleman was arrested Friday after an investigation revealed that he allegedly trafficked three women to engage in commercial sex acts and transported one of them to another state to engage in prostitution.

“The indictment alleges that Mr. Coleman chose to prey on women who were struggling with employment and housing when the pandemic hit. He allegedly forced these women to sell their bodies, took their money, and violently assaulted them to make sure they obeyed his commands,” Levy said in a statement. “Human trafficking is abhorrent whenever it occurs and it is typically the product of exploiting a victim’s vulnerability, in this case, the onset of a pandemic. Mr. Coleman now faces real consequences for his alleged conduct and his victims will finally be free of his torment.”

Coleman targeted victims who had lost their jobs or homes amid the pandemic shutdowns from March through August 2020, had the victims move into his house, posted online commercial sex advertisements for them, provided them with scripts to negotiate payment with buyers, and transported his victims to hotels and other places to engage in commercial sex, requiring them to give him all the money they made, investigators alleged in the indictment.

Coleman is also accused of regularly coercing his victims into having sex with him.

Specifically, in March 2020, Coleman recruited one jobless victim who would sometimes serve up to 16 clients per day, with Coleman taking all the profits, according to the indictment. He then allegedly recruited a second victim to live with him after she was kicked out of her home by a relative following their disagreements around COVID-19 safety practices, as well as a third victim who was homeless.

“Anthony Coleman is accused of staggering violence and cruelty against women he trafficked and forced into commercial sex. In a pattern we see over and over with human traffickers, Coleman allegedly targeted women in need and offered them security only to use violence and threats to control their money and their bodies,” ” Michael J. Krol, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New England, added. “These cases are complex and can only be worked in close collaboration with our partners in law enforcement and victims support services who share our commitment to holding these human traffickers to account and working towards a life of dignity for survivors.”

The charge of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years and up to life in prison, at least five years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

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