An Amherst man was taken into custody Friday by federal and local authorities on charges of running a prostitution operation using underage women since early 2010.
Kenneth Graham, 24, is being held on federal charges of sex trafficking involving minors for allegedly recruiting, promoting and profiting from prostitution activities of at least three local girls, two under the age of 18 and one in her 20s, according to U.S. Attorney William Hochul Jr.
If convicted, Graham faces a mandatory minimum federal prison term of at least 10 years and a possible life term and a $250,000 fine.
Hochul and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert C. Moscati, who is handling the case resulting from the multi-agency investigation, said Friday Graham's operation began early in 2010 and continued until last month, using advertisements on the website backpage.com.
One of Graham's online ads read: "Amazingly Sexy Sweet Petite Companion 20 working out of the airport area," the prosecutors said. They said the prostitutes worked in various hotels in Amherst and Cheektowaga. Men patronizing the prostitutes were charged $100 per half-hour and $150 per hour.
One of the minors told investigators Graham kidnapped her for a week and physically assaulted her to force her to work for him.
Hochul said, "Human trafficking and in particular the sex trafficking of minors, is something that our office takes very seriously. This defendant used physical threats to try and control these victims and now he will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Anyone who considers similar behavior will also be prosecuted and faces a potential life sentence if convicted."
James C. Spero, special agent in charge of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau of the federal Homeland Security agency in Buffalo, said, "Sordid tales of human trafficking come to light every day. But because human trafficking is so widespread, no one entity can adequately address the problems it presents. Law enforcement throughout New York is committed to giving victims the help they need to come forward and help us end human trafficking. We remind the general public to be vigilant, and report any signs of human trafficking to law enforcement."
Hochul and Spero said Graham's arrest is a result of months of investigative work by special agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement divisions of Homeland Security, and Buffalo, Amherst and Cheektowaga police.