ATLANTA – Five people have been convicted for their involvement in a sex trafficking scheme throughout the Northern District of Georgia. The behavior came to light after an underage victim was reported missing in Miami, Florida, when her parents discovered she had failed to board a flight to Honduras. The minor was transported to Georgia by two defendants and forced to engage in 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 may be particularly fearful of reporting these crimes. Therefore, our office is grateful for the diligence of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners who have worked tirelessly to earn the trust of the victims in this case and to help ensure justice for these young girls and their families.”
“These criminals were more concerned with their own selfishness and greed than with the horrific circumstances they subjected minors to,” said FBI Atlanta Assistant Special Agent in Charge Brian Ozden. “These crimes are among the most depraved ever committed. Using a victim-centered approach, the FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable those who prey on our most vulnerable citizens.”
“Investigators and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have done a great job prosecuting this case. “I am pleased that the Dalton Police Department was able to help get these individuals off the streets,” said Dalton Police Chief Cliff Cason.
According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the indictments and other information presented in court: Brian Hernandez Acosta and co-defendants Nilageo Alvarez Acosta, Jaime Adam Riano, Anthony Joseph Lawhon and Brandi Rice Stumpe conspired to traffic underage girls for commercial sex throughout North Georgia. From approximately November 2015 to December 2016, the defendants induced at least six girls between the ages of 16 and 17 to engage in prostitution, including through the use of force, fraud and coercion.
After following some of the girls on Facebook and Snapchat, Hernandez Acosta posted provocative photos of them in the adult entertainment and escort sections of Backpage.com, a classified advertising website seized by the Justice Department. Hernandez Acosta used these ads to encourage men to have sex with minors for money. The advertisements used false names for the minors and incorrectly stated the girls’ ages as 19 to 21 years old.
Hernandez Acosta and his brother Alvarez Acosta forced a 16-year-old girl to have sex with men after driving her from Florida to Georgia after falsely claiming they would provide the girl with a place to stay. The defendants required the young girls to have sex with multiple men each night and kept a large portion of the money they earned. Riano acted as the co-defendant’s driver and transported the minors to hotel locations throughout the county 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, during which they engaged in sexual acts with underage girls and young women while plying them with alcohol and cocaine. Investigators recovered images of some of these behaviors on Hernandez Acosta’s cell phone. 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 followed by 10 years of supervised release. Riano pleaded guilty on November 17, 2017, to two counts of sex trafficking of children under 18.
- Nilageo Alvarez-Acosta, 37, of Camaguey, Cuba, was sentenced to 23 years in prison followed by 20 years of supervised release. Alvarez-Acosta pleaded guilty on April 11, 2019, to two counts of felony sex trafficking of a minor, transportation of a minor for prostitution, and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor.
- Hernandez Acosta, 32, of Havana, Cuba, was sentenced to 30 years in prison followed by 20 years of supervised release. Acosta was sentenced after pleading guilty on July 1, 2019, to operating a child exploitation enterprise, engaging in sex trafficking of minors by force, fraud or coercion, engaging in sex trafficking of children under the age of 18, and transporting minors in interstate commerce for prostitution and fathering children pornography and supplying cocaine to a person under 21 years of age.
- Brandi Rice Stumpe, 40, of Powder Springs, Georgia, was sentenced to five years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, including 100 hours of community service. Stumpe pleaded guilty on August 5, 2020, to the felony of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.
- Anthony Joseph Lawhon, 44, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by life of supervised release after pleading guilty on April 14, 2022, to the felony count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Dalton Police Department. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Murray County Sheriff’s Office also assisted.
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 the Safe Childhood project. In February 2006, the Attorney General launched Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. attorneys’ offices across the country, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to arrest and prosecute individuals who exploit children. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
For further information, please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Public Affairs 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.