A Queens man has been charged with sex trafficking of underage girls, an extremely serious felony offense under NY Penal Law § 230.34. If convicted, the defendant may face a mandatory minimum sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Our Queens sex crime defense lawyers explain New York City’s sex trafficking statute, and discuss some of the penalties that can result from a conviction of sex trafficking or patronizing a prostitute.
Queens Defendant Arrested for Sex Trafficking May Be Sentenced to 10-Year Prison Term
22-year-old Queens resident Sharekul Islam was arrested in Swatara Township, PA, nearly 200 miles away from his New York City home, on Thursday, September 15 after officers discovered him in a parked vehicle outside of a Howard Johnson hotel. The officers approached the vehicle after smelling the odor of marijuana and suspecting drug possession, but found something even more serious inside Islam’s car: a 14-year-old girl, whose name has been withheld to protect her identity.
After interviewing the suspect and his passenger, police officers discovered that Islam was in the process of “driving [the girl] from hotel to hotel for the purpose of engaging in prostitution,” according to FBI Special Agent Stacy Shahrani.
According to the criminal complaint, the arresting officers also heard Islam refer to a “pimp and his wife,” who, Islam said, could be found at a Quality Inn Islam had rented in Cumberland County, which is near Harrisburg, the capital.
The arrest occurred in Pennsylvania, but an investigation into Islam’s network of contacts began months earlier in New York City. In April 2016, the NYPD’s Vice Unit initiated an investigation after a 17-year-old runaway told officers she had previously worked as an escort for Michael Miller, who, along with accomplice Latrell King, was discovered at the Howard Johnson hotel Islam mentioned. Both men were subsequently charged with recruiting minors for prostitution.
King and Miller were detained in Pennsylvania, while Islam was extradited back to New York for prosecution. Islam has been charged with sex trafficking, which is a Class B felony under NY Penal Law § 230.34. To put the severity of these charges into context, the only types of felonies that are more serious, called Class A-I and A-II felonies, include crimes like terrorism, drug trafficking, aggravated murder, and first degree murder.
Sex trafficking is more serious than patronizing a prostitute, which is already, in many cases, a felony charge. Patronizing a prostitute, which can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor, Class E felony, or Class D felony, involves a customer paying a prostitute to receive services. A Class E felony can result in a prison sentence of up to four years, while a Class D felony can lead to up to seven years in prison.
Sex trafficking, which is a separate crime under NY Penal Law § 230.34, involves “intentionally advanc[ing] or profit[ing] from prostitution” – in a word, pimping – via certain means, including but not limited to:
- Destroying a person’s passport to keep them in the country.
- Giving a person certain drugs in order to impair their judgment.
- Making false statements to ensure that the person continues to work as a prostitute.
- Threatening to cause injury, death, or property damage if the person stops working as a prostitute.
In New York, the penalties for a Class B non-violent felony like sex trafficking may include a prison sentence of up to 25 years, or, depending on the details of the case, a sentence ranging from one to three years. However, while the investigation originated in New York, Islam is being charged in federal court – specifically, Brooklyn Federal Court – where criminal penalties can be even more severe. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Nomi Berenson, Islam will receive a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison if he is convicted.
“These are incredibly serious charges,” Berenson says.
Criminal Attorneys in NYC Handling Felony and Misdemeanor Sex Crime Charges
If you or one of your loved ones was arrested for prostitution, sex trafficking, patronizing a prostitute, or other misdemeanor or felony sex crimes in New York City, it is critically important to make sure that an experienced and aggressive New York criminal defense attorney will be there to protect your liberties and your legal rights as a defendant. The Queens prostitution defense lawyers of Sullivan & Galleshaw have more than 30 years of experience representing defendants in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, and have worked on thousands of cases.
It is important to act swiftly and decisively if you or a family member was arrested in New York City. To set up a free legal consultation regarding your loved one’s criminal charges, call the law offices of Sullivan & Galleshaw as soon as possible at (800) 730-0135. We will keep your information confidential.