NEW YORK, Jan 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A confessed U.S. sex trafficker was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Wednesday for recruiting young girls online and prostituting them to older men, authorities in New York said.
Michael Miller used social media to lure girls and advertised them on Backpage.com, a huge classified advertising website, according to the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Backpage.com has come under criticism and legal scrutiny for allegations it promotes trafficking in its ads. The company has said it is hosting content, not creating it, and is protected from liability by a federal law protecting free speech.
Miller pleaded guilty last year to trafficking minors for sex.
He also had sex with at least two victims, authorities said.
“Children are supposed to be protected by adults, not used as a means to make money,” said William Sweeney of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who worked on the case.
“The mere idea that this man sold girls, one as young as 14, and even used them for his own sexual gratification boggles the mind.”
Miller, 26, was arrested in 2016 in a hotel room, where authorities found a school identification card belonging to a victim who was being prostituted at a nearby hotel, authorities said.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a federal judge in New York and ordered to pay restitution of $9,500 apiece to three under-age girls, authorities said.
He was accused of trafficking girls from January to August 2016. Two other people were arrested in connection with the trafficking ring, authorities said.
Each year, as many as 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked for commercial sex in the United States, according to the Department of Justice. (Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)