A North Texas woman pleaded guilty Tuesday in Dallas federal court over her alleged involvement in a prostitution ring that pimped out women and underage girls, according to authorities.
Fort Worth resident Shatara Armstrong, 31, faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine after pleading guilty to one count of use of a facility of interstate commerce in aid of a racketeering enterprise.
In May, she was one of five suspects indicted on purported child sex trafficking charges. The others are Marquist “Keezie” Fulcher, 28; Chapoleon “Kidd” Fischer, 28; Marcus Speed, 26; and 22-year-old Tiffany Gideon, according to information released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.
Court documents revealed that, in late 2015, Armstrong began to assist her alleged co-conspirator Fulcher in running the commercial sex operation after he asked for her help with the business.
Fulcher, though, actually began pimping out women and young girls around a year earlier, say officials. Among the alleged female minors he prostituted were 14-year-old Jane Doe 1, 17-year-old Jane Doe 2, 16-year-old Jane Doe 3, and 17-year-old Jane Doe 4.
Allegedly, Fulcher and Armstrong rented rooms at several Dallas-Fort Worth area hotels so these female minors and others could have sex for money. Court documents revealed that the business partners publicized their illicit venture by creating and posting sex advertisements on Backpage.com, the so-called “advertising” website harshly criticized for promoting sex trafficking.
Breitbart Texas reported that, in January, Backpage buckled to intense pressure from two state attorneys general and a U.S. Senate investigative panel, shutting down its online adult sex advertisements. More recently, though, some law enforcement officials and other anti-sex trafficking groups expressed concerns that these Backpage ads continue to run only on a different “dating” section of the site.
Fulcher and Armstrong apparently drummed up business through Backpage and, subsequently, the unidentified women and girls performed commercial sex acts with johns at hotels, turning over the money they earned to Fulcher. On occasion, Armstrong oversaw the sex workers while they worked instead of Fulcher, according to court documents. During those times, Armstrong collected the cash from the girls, which she later handed over to Fulcher.
As part of their budding criminal sex enterprise, Fulcher and Armstrong also collaborated with other pimps such as Speed and Fischer. The foursome allegedly recruited some of their victims over the internet and also traded girls among themselves. Fulcher, Speed, and Fischer would also book the same hotels simultaneously. Sometimes, Armstrong rented rooms for Fischer and his girls to use for paid sex.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office noted that the pimps in this organization often resorted to violence and threats of harming their victims as method of control. Fulcher, allegedly, acted violently towards Armstrong in front of his working girls to send a message to the other victims involved about what would happen to them if they did not comply with Fulcher’s instructions.
The agencies involved in investigating this case included the Fort Worth Police Department and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) are affiliated with the North Texas Trafficking Task Force.
Armstrong remains on bond pending her sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for November 1.
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