California man convicted of sex trafficking and related offenses for forcing victim to engage in commercial sex across the country

Special to the Banner-News

A federal jury in the Southern District of Mississippi convicted Michael Deon Fulcher, 54, with sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and interstate transportation for purposes of prostitution. The co-defendant, Jonzie Hamilton, 35, previously pleaded guilty to interstate transportation for purposes of prostitution.

"The defendant preyed upon this vulnerable victim and used sexual violence and threats of physical harm to coerce her into commercial sex for his own financial gain," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "We thank this victim for bravely facing her trafficker. The Justice Department will vigorously prosecute these cases to hold human traffickers accountable and bring justice to their victims."

"This way this victim was trafficked across multiple states and then into Mississippi is an example of how human trafficking affects our entire nation," said U.S. Attorney Todd Gee for the Southern District of Mississippi. "We will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute human traffickers, like the defendant, as part of our efforts to bring an end to this horrible crime."

"The FBI takes allegations of sex trafficking very seriously and we are determined to rigorously investigate human trafficking actors," said Acting Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Day of the FBI Jackson Field Office.

The evidence presented at trial demonstrated that Fulcher used sexual assault, threats of violence, isolation, control, psychological manipulation and emotional abuse to compel the victim to engage in commercial sex between April and June 2020. Fulcher lured the physically injured victim into his car in Las Vegas by making false promises to help her, but then brought her to his home, where he sexually assaulted her.

Shortly afterwards, Fulcher brought the victim to California, where he acted in concert with Hamilton to compel the victim to engage in commercial sex acts over the course of several weeks. Fulcher required the victim to follow his strict rules, threatened the victim with physical harm, confiscated her money and Social Security debit card and even had an unlicensed dentist pull out her teeth. Fulcher also sent the victim and Hamilton across the country for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex, stopping in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana and eventually Mississippi where the victim ran away.

While the victim was on the road, Fulcher required the victim to send him all of her earnings and continued his coercive scheme by threatening the victim with physical harm, controlling her access to her phone, isolating her from anyone she knew and refusing to allow her to receive much-needed medical treatment.

A sentencing hearing for Fulcher is scheduled for April 30. Fulcher faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and mandatory restitution for the sex trafficking charge. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Hamilton's sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 31.

The FBI Gulfport Field Office investigated the case.

Trial Attorneys Kate Alexander and Francisco Zornosa of the Civil Rights Division's Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit prosecuted the case, with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Jones for the Southern District of Mississippi.

Anyone who has information about human trafficking should report that information to the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information about human trafficking, please visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org. Information on the Justice Department's efforts to combat human trafficking can be found at www.justice.gov/humantrafficking.

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