Three suspects have admitted to kidnapping in relation to a sex trafficking conspiracy.
Joshua Lankford, 33, also known as “20-20,” “Light Bright,” and “Yellow,” of Manchester, Maryland, has pleaded guilty to kidnapping in relation to a sex trafficking conspiracy. His co-defendants Lakeya N. Aldridge, 39, and Kevonne L. Murphy, 27, have both previously pleaded guilty. According to court records, from Oct. 25, 2018, to Oct. 30, 2018, Lankford headed a “conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion, and to commit kidnapping.” The three individuals in the federal indictment forced a young adult woman to seek out customers on the internet, rented hotel rooms and transported her to “out calls” in other locations to engage in commercial sex acts.
Evidence presented at trial showed that Lankford specifically targeted the woman and kidnapped her. He knew that the victim was addicted to heroin and withheld the drug when she did make enough money. At one point, the victim attempted to escape, and Lankford along with his co-defendants drove her to a rural road where they beat, whipped and choked her with a belt, and then drove her to a hotel to continue to engage in sex.
“Sex trafficking is a horrific crime that deprives some of the most vulnerable people in our society of their freedom and dignity,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. “This defendant preyed on a vulnerable young woman and cruelly exploited her for his profit. The Civil Rights Division will continue its vigorous enforcement of our human trafficking laws to hold perpetrators accountable and to seek justice for their victims.”
Lankford was arrested after two days and willfully told law enforcement agents that he deleted information on his cell phone when he believed he was going to be captured. While incarcerated, he also told a co-conspirator that he intended to kill the victim so she wouldn’t testify at his trial.
“This case is a prime example of the horrendous realities surrounding human trafficking and why our office works fiercely to combat it,” said U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron for the District of Maryland. “Lankford took advantage of an at-risk woman’s drug addiction and her desire to be reunited with her son to lure her into a dehumanizing sex trafficking trap. He then intended to kill her to undermine the federal prosecution of his crimes at trial. Our office remains dedicated to the prosecution of sex traffickers, and most importantly, to the protection of sex trafficking survivors within our cases.”
“Joshua Lankford’s crimes are nothing short of horrific; he kidnapped and victimized a vulnerable woman then plotted to kill her in order to save himself,” said Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore. “Fortunately, he will now face the consequences of his actions. HSI Baltimore is proud to have partnered with the Maryland State Police, the Delaware State Police and the Federalsburg Police Department to bring Lankford to justice. HSI remains committed to investigating human trafficking organizations as they prey upon the most vulnerable populations in our communities.”
Lankford is set to be sentenced to 17 years in federal prison should the court accept his plea. His sentencing hearing is scheduled sentencing for the end of April.