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Admitted Memphis child sex trafficker gets 14 years

Memphis, TN|Sex-Trafficking Minors|Add Comment
By: Beth Warren, The Commercial Appeal
Arieke Lester

A federal judge in Memphis sentenced a child sex trafficker to 14 years in federal prison for trying to prostitute a 15-year-old girl over the Internet.

Arieke Lester, 31, of Somerville, pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to engage in child sex trafficking. This month, U.S. Dist. Judge Jon McCalla sentenced Lester, who won't be considered for release until he has served about 12 years — even if he receives maximum credit for good behavior, prosecutors said.

That's because there is no parole in the federal system — a key reason U.S. Atty. Ed Stanton has vowed to prosecute many sex traffickers federally.

The victim, a soft-spoken teen, had testified that she thought she was headed from her rural hometown to Memphis for a barbecue with a trusted relative, Chauntta Lewis, 26. Instead, she and Lewis met up with her relative's boyfriend, aspiring pimp Maurice Mabon, 24, and his friend, Lester, in Hickory Hill.

The mentold the girl to change into lingerie and pose for photos, which the defendants immediately posted on the "Memphis escorts" section of Backpage.com, an online classified advertising service.

The teen said she had no way to return home and feared the men, who were armed and had just attended a gang meeting.

The teen was told she and her relative would have to have sex with clients. The group headed to meet a customer at his home, but an observant neighbor noticed the strangers who were lingering too long in the neighborhood and called 911. Shelby County Sheriff's deputies closed in before they left.

The victim's relative pleaded guilty to her role in helping to promote child prostitution and received a prison sentence of four and a half years, according to a news release from Stanton's office.

Federal agents found Mabon's career plans scrawled in a little black book, including starting an escort service in one year and a "legitimate brothel" within five years. A federal jury convicted Mabon of child sex trafficking and illegal possession of a firearm by a felon. He is serving a 27-year prison sentence.

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