Two people charged in Butler County with allegedly running a prostitution ring out of a Cranberry Township hotel were indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on allegations of sex trafficking of a child.
Oscar Carter III, 34, and Shelby S. Brown, 27, both of Tulsa, Okla., were indicted on charges of interstate transportation of a minor for the purpose of engaging in unlawful sexual activity, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and sex trafficking of a child.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the law provides for a maximum total sentence of life imprisonment, a fine of $750,000 and a term of supervised release anywhere from 5 years to life.
Included in the indictment is a forfeiture request for two laptops, two cell phones and more than $1,700 in cash.
Both remain held in Butler County Prison on $100,000 bail, awaiting disposition of the Butler County charges, and are scheduled for preliminary hearings on July 20. Carter is scheduled to appear in federal court on July 10, while Brown is scheduled on July 9.
Carter and Brown were initially arrested and charged by Cranberry Township police as part of a prostitution sting that began in Allegheny County, after allegations that they brought a 17-year-old girl from Akron, Ohio, to Butler County for the purpose of prostitution between March 6 and 14.
The investigation began after a report from the FBI and Pittsburgh police, who conducted an undercover investigation into prostitution at a hotel in Pittsburgh. According to the criminal complaint, a 17-year-old girl was arrested in Pittsburgh on March 14 after police set up a rendezvous with the teen online. The girl told police she had been recruited into the ring from Akron, Ohio, by Carter and Brown.
The girl was also found to have a key card for a room at the Woodsprings Suites hotel in Cranberry, police said. She told police Carter was running a prostitution ring out of the hotel, and Carter and Brown had driven her to Pittsburgh in a black Dodge sedan to conduct acts of prostitution, according to the criminal complaint. She also reported the two posted online advertisements for her, arraigned for appointments, transported her to the appointments and handled the money, police said.
Police confirmed Carter had reserved a room at the hotel and also found the Dodge sedan, which was registered to Brown, the document states.
Police conducted surveillance on the hotel while search warrants were secured, but Carter left the hotel during that time. A traffic stop was conducted on Thompson Park Drive and Carter was arrested. The complaint states he had $1,700 in cash with him and did not have a valid driver’s license.
Police searched the vehicle and the hotel room, and allegedly found unlawful access device-making equipment, counterfeit access device cards, a “binder of websites” on how to rewrite access devices, fake identification cards and a log book of prostitution appointments, including one that had been set up as the sting by Pittsburgh police.
Brown had left the room before the search, and made several calls to the hotel and the police department, falsely claiming to be in Oklahoma and looking for her vehicle, police said. On March 19, police said Brown had posted an online advertisement, and an undercover officer made arrangements to meet with her at the Quality Inn, Cranberry Township, where she solicited sexual acts for money.
When she was arrested, police said more fraudulent access cards were found, as well as a notebook containing a letter she was writing to Carter, detailing her prostitution activity since his arrest. Brown also admitted that she and Carter had encountered the 17-year-old girl at a restaurant in Ohio and transported her to several states to engage in prostitution, police said.
Carter was charged with felony trafficking in minors, criminal use of a communications facility, promoting prostitution of a minor, possessing unlawful device making equipment, misdemeanor possession of fraudulent access devices, possession of marijuana and summary driving without a license.
Brown was charged with felony trafficking in minors, promoting prostitution of a minor, criminal use of a communications facility, conspiracy charges to all those, misdemeanor possession of unlawful device making equipment, conspiracy to that charge, possession of an instrument of crime and promoting prostitution.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Lope, who is prosecuting the county charges, said his office will be coordinating with federal officials to decide how to proceed.
“We need to see how much overlap there is between the cases,” he said. “If we think those federal indictments cover all the allegations in our cases, we will let them prosecute.”
Margaret Philbin, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said any federal charges that overlap with the county charges will proceed in federal court.
Attorney Dennis McCurdy, who is representing Carter in the county case, and Assistant Public Defender Maura Palumbi, who is representing Brown with her county charges, could not be reached for comment.