Man pleads guilty to sex trafficking women in Central Illinois

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A Springfield man accused of sex trafficking young women in Central Illinois pleaded guilty Tuesday in Peoria.

47-year-old Franshon Stapleton faces a statutory minimum sentence of 15 years and up to life in prison for four sex trafficking counts. The penalty for each of the remaining charges is up to five years imprisonment for one count of engaging in a conspiracy and for eleven counts of using a facility of interstate commerce in aid of a racketeering enterprise. 

From 2016 to May 2018, Stapleton was sex trafficking young women from Peoria, Champaign, and Sangamon counties. Stapleton pleaded guilty to all the charges against him on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020.

“I commend the strength of the victims in this case who came forward to provide critical evidence against this defendant, U.S. Attorney John Milhiser said.

Milhiser also recognized the sustained efforts by federal and local law enforcement to locate, investigate, and prosecute dangerous predators and remove them from local communities.

Court documents confirm Stapleton exploited vulnerable young women, including their drug additions and homelessness, to force them to perform commercial sex acts in 2017 and 2018. These women were frequently dealing with the effects of drug addiction.

Using a website called BackPage, which the Department of Justice seized in April 2018, Stapleton advertised commercial sex acts that he would have women perform. He used violence and threats of violence to force women to engage in sexual activity. He also supplied them with drugs and threatened to send women into withdrawal sickness by withholding drugs.

Stapleton is still in the custody of law enforcement since he was arrested in May 2018. An investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, the Urbana Police Department, the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, the Illinois State Police Forensics Laboratory, and the Champaign Police Department led to the charges. They cooperated with Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Reitz.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elly M. Peirson and Ryan Finlen represent the government in the prosecution.

Authorities scheduled sentencing for Stapleton on Jan. 29, 2021.

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