Project Safe Childhood is a nationwide law enforcement effort that was initiated to battle the increasing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. It was introduced by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2006.
In an investigation appropriate to these misconducts, the FBI assisted by local law enforcement was able to make arrests of two Florida residents in early 2012. The details of this case that was concluded with their arrests and their ensuing guilty pleas are as follows:
A Website advertising escort services led to the arrests of Palm Beach residents Rashad Emon Clark, 33, and Mandi L. Bowman, 22. In the course of the investigation, an undercover police officer, pretending to be an interested potential client, made contact with a female subject through a classified ad on the Website. He then organized a meeting with her with the fictional intent of participating in a sex act. Subsequently, the officer met the female subject at a West Palm Beach motel. The girl was later identified as a 14-year-old runaway. When the meeting took place, the officer immediately told the girl that he was a member of law enforcement and not the client, as he’d led her to believe.
When questioned, the girl admitted to the officer that she was working as a prostitute. She further implied that Clark had sponsored her actions and helped her set up the online classified ad. She also told the officer that Bowman, who was another prostitute working for Clark explained to her how to plan appointments with potential clients as well as how to negotiate the charges for her services.
According to the youth, Clark first approached her in early 2012 at a convenience store. He basically asked her if she’d like to make some money working for him as a prostitute. After agreeing to his proposal, the girl had sex with him on multiple occasions followed by him setting up encounters with two other men who engaged in sex with her for money.
Mercifully, her professional career ended quickly after those incidents occurred when the West Palm Beach Police swiftly acted on a call by the girl’s stepfather; alerting them that she was missing. The report also stated that he believed she might be working as a prostitute. The underage girl is the same as mentioned above who the undercover officer met with at the West Palm Beach motel, according to court records. The police were able to quickly connect the online ad on the Website which led them to the subject of the stepfather’s report.
Ms. Bowman pleaded guilty earlier this year to a single count of conspiring to entice a minor to engage in a commercial sex act. She was sentenced to four years in prison earlier last week. She could have faced a much harsher sentence, if it weren’t for federal prosecutors who held that her cooperation was instrumental in tracking down her co-defendant Clark after he fled to Texas. She also assisted Federal agents in their investigation of three other people who were blamable for the sale of sex regarding other young girls.
Bowman cried tears of joy when the lesser sentence was declared by the judge. She had previously written to him, apologizing for her actions and stating in that correspondence that she was glad she was arrested as it would give her the chance to turn her life around.
Bowman’s federal public defender told the judge that she was easy prey for a man like Clark. She was raped by her babysitter when she was 12-years old as well as being gang raped when she was 16. She became a prostitute at that same age and suffers from bipolar mental illness as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. The attorney went on to say that her client had attempted suicide three times going back to 2006.
The judge acknowledged that Bowman was also “partially a victim of” Clark’s behavior and that a lesser sentence was appropriate due to her age and her agreement of cooperation with investigators and authorities.
Clark who went by the street name “Shagg Dog” was apprehended in North Houston, Texas, by members of the Human Trafficking Task Force and the FBI. After his extradition back to South Florida he pleaded guilty to four federal charges, including conspiracy to recruit a minor for a commercial sex act and enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity. He was sentenced to a little more than 11 years in prison.
According to prosecutors the 14-year-old victim is presently living in a halfway house and receiving the help she needs.
Project Safe Childhood is headed by the Department of Justice, United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) along with other federal, state, and local agencies.
Their Website can be found at: www.projectsafechildhood.gov
Clearly, the consequences of a conviction of any sex crime are extremely harsh and often include lengthy incarceration, and a permanent criminal record as well as having to register as a sexual offender for the rest of a person’s life. The charges of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children, sex trafficking of children and inducing a minor to engage in commercial sex act will be tried in the federal court system. It is crucial that if you, or a friend or loved one is charged with a sex crime of this nature or any other sex crime to immediately contact a reputable attorney, with experience in this field to properly handle the case.
Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. He practices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, among other counties. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.
Mr. Cohen’s practice has recently expanded and he is now a partner in the prestigious law firm of McLaughlin & Stern, LLP. Through this partnership, Mr. Cohen can now lead your defense in the New York Metropolitan area in addition to the Broward, Dade, or Palm Beach County areas as well as all other jurisdictions throughout the state of Florida
Mr. Cohen is also listed in the 2013 edition of “Best Lawyers in America“.