FEDERALSBURG — A federal grand jury indicted two Caroline County residents and a Carroll County man who allegedly forced a woman to engage in commercial sex acts in October 2018.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland, Kevonne L. Murphy, 27, of Federalsburg, Lakeya N. Aldridge, 39, of Federalsburg, and Joshua I. Lankford, 20, of Manchester, Md., have been charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion; conspiracy to commit kidnapping; and kidnapping.

The indictment came on Thursday, Aug. 1, and all three defendants have had an initial appearance.

The indictment alleges, from about Oct. 1, 2018, to Oct. 30, 2018, Aldridge, Lankford and Murphy rented hotel rooms for the woman to engage in commercial sex acts, as well as transporting the woman to “out calls” to hotel rooms and other locations to engage in commercial sex acts, including transporting her across state lines.

Aldridge allegedly provided narcotics, including heroin, to the woman to recruit, entice and maintain the woman throughout the course of her engaging in commercial sex acts.

The indictment alleges Aldridge, Lankford and Murphy caused the woman to communicate with and solicit potential sex customers via the Internet, including social media, on their cellular phones. Investigators said on Oct. 29, 2018, after the woman performed commercial sex acts in Maryland at the direction of the defendants, Aldridge, Lankford and Murphy used force, threats of force and physically assaulted the woman in order to transport her, against her will, from Federalsburg, to a motel in Laurel, Del., to continue the sex trafficking conspiracy.

In an affidavit filed July 12, a special agent of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, said the agency was called Oct. 30, 2018, by the Delaware State Police, which had responded to a hotel room in Laurel, Del., for a welfare check.

The woman had called 911 to say she was being held hostage and had been assaulted.

When state troopers arrived, Murphy answered the door, according to the affidavit. A woman walked behind his left shoulder, stood up on her toes, made eye contact with the troopers, and appeared to be mouthing words with no sound.

Believing the woman to be the 911 caller, troopers made contact with everyone inside the room, which also included Aldridge and another man.

The woman was wearing only a white bed sheet when she left the room and was placed into a patrol vehicle and had visible bruising to her neck and jaw.

She told troopers that Murphy and Aldridge had assaulted her because she did not make enough money while prostituting, according to the affidavit. She said she had been going out and performing sexual acts for money, but had to give it all to Murphy and Aldridge.

A ledger with sexual acts handwritten on it was found in the hotel room trash can during a search.

The woman told police she had met Lankford in Federalsburg and agreed to perform commercial sex acts at his direction and initially gave him all the money she made from prostitution.

A few days later, however, she began giving the money to Aldridge.

On Oct. 26, 2018, Aldridge drove the woman, Murphy, Lankford and the other man to the Laurel, Del., hotel, where they checked in. The next day, she was driven to a Seaford, Del., hotel where she stayed for one day before being driven back to Laurel.

The woman said she performed sexual acts for money at both the Laurel and Seaford hotels and had to give the money to Aldridge, Lankford or Murphy.

On Oct. 29, 2018, Aldridge was upset with the woman and she was driven to a location in Federalsburg near the railroad tracks where Aldridge, Lankford, Murphy and the other man assaulted her with a belt, she told police. The belt was then placed around her neck to restrain her and prevent her from trying to exit the vehicle as it was driven back to Laurel.

Aldridge, Lankford and Murphy took shifts watching her overnight so she could not escape, according to the affidavit.

The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge John Eisert of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Col. William M. Pallozzi, Maryland State Police superintendent; Federalsburg Police Chief Michael McDermott; Col. Nathaniel McQueen, Jr. of the Delaware State Police; and Attorney General Kathy Jennings of the Delaware Department of Justice.

Hur commended HSI, the Maryland State Police, the Federalsburg Police Department, the Delaware State Police, and the Delaware Department of Justice for their work in the investigation. He thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary W. Setzer and Matthew DellaBetta, who are prosecuting the case.

The case was investigated by the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, formed in 2007 to discover and rescue victims of human trafficking while identifying and prosecuting offenders. Members include federal, state, and local law enforcement, as well as victim service providers and local community members. For more information about the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, please visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/md/priorities_human.html.

Report suspected instances of human trafficking to HSI’s tip line at 866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.

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