Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Friday announced sex trafficking charges against a New Jersey man who allegedly lured two teenage girls to the Garden State, then beat and raped them so they would perform unlawful sex work for his own financial benefit.
Walter “Laron” Melvin, 29, stands accused of two counts each of sex trafficking and sex trafficking of a child over the alleged prostitution scheme spanning “several weeks,” the DA’s office said. He was indicted on Friday in the New York State Supreme Court.
Each of the charges against the defendant is a class B felony under New York State law. Such felonies attract a maximum 25-year sentence. If convicted as charged, Melvin could be sentenced to 100 years in state prison, though such a sentence is unlikely.
It is unclear if both of the girls, aged 15 and 16, were forced to have sex for money. The DA’s press release says the defendant “personally arranged for men to come to his apartment to engage in sexual intercourse with one of the girls through online advertisements.”
Citing “court documents and statements made on the record by prosecutors,” authorities allege the scheme began when Melvin met the two girls in Times Square in September 2022. After that, he allegedly promised them drugs and money “through prostitution” and them brought them across state lines. Prosecutors allege the defendant, just days after the trip to New Jersey, posted a series of online sex-selling ads “which included nude photos of the 15-year-old.”
For six weeks, Melvin “communicated directly” with men who responded to the advertisements “and arranged for them to have sex with the [15-year-old] at his apartment,” the DA’s office alleges.
That girl was also allegedly repeatedly beaten by the defendant.
The DA’s office also alleges that Melvin “kept a gun” in his apartment, suggesting a firearm may have been used to intimidate the victims.
At some point, the 16-year-old appears to have left her alleged sex trafficker. But, under unclear circumstances, she allegedly found herself back in the defendant’s apartment, the press release says.
In the press release, Melvin is also accused of raping the 16-year-old upon her return in an effort “to force her to engage in prostitution,” however, there is not a corresponding rape charge at present.
“Walter Melvin allegedly preyed on and took advantage of two teenage girls in a deliberate plan to engage them in prostitution,” Bragg added in the press release. “Nobody should have to endure the type of psychological, physical and emotional abuse that these young survivors experienced. Our Office is focused on prosecuting those who engage in this horrific behavior, while also supporting the survivors throughout these cases and helping them heal.”
Melvin hails from Patterson, N.J. He is currently being held without bail in a jail in the New York City borough of Queens and the East Elmhurst neighborhood, according to jail records reviewed by Law&Crime. His next court date is currently slated for Jan. 31, 2023.
The defendant has been charged in New York State Supreme Court. The Empire State is the lone U.S. state where the lowest-level court is referred to as the “Supreme Court.” Until last December, Maryland, along with New York, called their highest court the “Court of Appeals.” Maryland no longer does so, due to a recent constitutional amendment.
[image via New York County District Attorney’s Office]
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