Alleged sex trafficker set to appear in court

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FILE PHOTO: American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington

HOUSTON – A 31-year-old Houston man has been taken into custody on charges of sex trafficking, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Law enforcement arrested Jonathan Smith-Byrd today. He is expected to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam S. Sheldon at 2 p.m.  

A federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment Oct. 19 which was unsealed upon the arrest today.  

Smith-Byrd allegedly used force, fraud and coercion to cause three women to engage in commercial sex. Two of the victims were minors when Smith-Byrd trafficked them, according to the charges.

The indictment also alleges Smith-Byrd coerced the victims to engage in sex acts across state lines. 

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If convicted, Smith-Byrd faces up to life imprisonment and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. 

The FBI conducted the investigation as part of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA).

Established in 2004, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Houston formed the HTRA to combine resources with federal, state and local enforcement agencies and prosecutors, as well as non-governmental service organizations to target human traffickers while providing necessary services to those that the traffickers victimized. Since its inception, HTRA has been recognized as a national model in identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking and prosecuting those engaged in trafficking offenses. 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sherin Daniel and Sebastian A. Edwards are prosecuting the case.

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An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.