Case #164 & 165 - Local man charged with sex trafficking of children
A 26-year-old Killeen man is facing a charge of sex trafficking children after being arrested and then booked into Bell County Jail on Wednesday.
Jerome Maurice Cole, of Killeen, appeared in Waco's Federal Courthouse on Friday morning in a video conference hearing with Judge Jeffrey C. Manske to hear his rights and be assigned an attorney.
Court papers obtained by News Channel 25 allege that Cole was making money from prostitutes he advertised online over the past few months, and at least two of them were underage.
The documents say the mother of a runaway 16-year-old Brownwood resident, referred to in the affidavit as C.A., reported her daughter missing to Killeen Police, who then found her alone at Cole's mobile home on S. Fort Hood St. in Killeen on May 16.
Investigators tracking C.A.'s whereabouts found four images of the girl in her underwear on escort advertisements in the adult entertainment section of Backpage.com.
On May 17, police arrested Cole on traffic violations and outstanding warrants. Cole denied any involvement in prostitution or sexual activity with C.A. and said he thought she was 17. Just days later he again denied involvement but said he was using the girl to run drugs.
According to the court papers, in Cole's possession when he was arrested were his cell phone containing the four graphic images of C.A. and text messages about prostitution, along with three credit cards that were used to create a Backpage.com account and pay for ads.
C.A. later admitted to authorities that Cole had driven the two hours northwest to Brownwood and brought her back to Killeen, where she said she lived with him and worked for him as a prostitute. C.A. told investigators she had had sex with about 25 men over two weeks in hotel rooms.
Cole reportedly set the price for half-hour- or hour-long sexual services while taking all the money for himself.
C.A. told investigators Cole had also sexually assaulted her six times from May 9 to May 14. An adult prostitute confessed to witnessing Cole having sex with the teen while she was too intoxicated to know what was happening.
Before his arrest, Cole arrived home with two women and another teenager referred to as A.W. Both women also admitted to prostituting for Cole and the minor said Cole was trying to recruit her. Her mother later told police Cole continued to try to recruit her months later.
On July 24, investigators interviewed another 16-year-old Killeen resident, J.H., who was associated with Cole's Backpage.com account. She admitted to selling herself for sex at hotels and Cole's trailer, and then splitting the money with Cole. J.H. reported that Cole decided what sexual services would be allowed for each customer and he paid for the hotel rooms and condoms.
Police arrested Cole again on Wednesday and initially booked him into Bell County Jail but did not set his bond amount.
Cole faces preliminary and detention hearings on Monday in federal court.