Experts discuss warning signs of human trafficking
She went by ‘Lady Tank’ and made two teenagers sell themselves over the internet, according to the Justice Department.
Wednesday, India Tykeyah-Najee Cuyler, a.k.a. ‘Lady Tank’, 24, pleaded guilty to forcing two teen girls into sex by using her cell phone to post advertisements on the internet.
In November 2017, two 16-year-olds were rescued from sex trafficking during a prostitution sting by the Lexington Police Department, the agency said.
The sting went down when undercover officers posing as prostitute-seeking men answered the ads for women on backpage.com and craigslist.com. Around 8 p.m., a girl later identified as a 16-year-old victim met an undercover officer at a hotel.
Investigators learned she had been coerced into prostitution by a man and a woman later identified as Cuyler and Donnell Salethian Woodard, 29, according to Lexington police. Both were arrested in the parking lot of the hotel, where they had been waiting on the girl.
The teenager was taken into emergency protective custody after receiving medical treatment. She also told investigators that another 16-year-old was being used for prostitution. The West Columbia Police Department found the second teenager and took her into custody, police stated.
Both Cuyler and Woodard were facing charges of sex trafficking of a minor. Woodard was wanted by the S.C. Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole on probation violation.
In court, prosecutors established that Cuyler had dropped the teen off at the hotel for the illegal transaction.
“The investigation revealed Cuyler was using a cell phone to post advertisements for commercial sex with the minors on a website and taking a portion of the proceeds,” prosecutors said in a statement.
After pleading guilty to the charge of using a cell phone to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity, Cuyler faces a minimum of 10 years in federal prison where there is no parole. She could go to prison for life if a judge decides to impose the maximum sentence. The charges against her also require she register as a sex offender. If Cuyler gets out she may face a lifetime of supervision by authorities.
Woodard’s case remains pending, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of South Carolina said in a statement.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Lexington Police Department, and the West Columbia Police Department. It was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse, the DOJ said.
“Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims,” the agency says.