Los Angeles, California - A Gardena man charged as a result of a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has been found guilty of 14 felony counts for trafficking seven girls who worked as prostitutes, several of whom worked under threats of force, fraud, or coercion.
Laron Carter, also known as “Birdd” and variations of that moniker, 39, was found guilty Wednesday afternoon by a federal jury following a five-day trial. The jury convicted Carter of seven counts of sex trafficking of a minor by force, fraud or coercion; and seven counts of transporting a child to engage in prostitution. The evidence at trial showed Carter trafficked girls as young as 13 and subjected some of them to beatings, which included victims being punched in the face and whipped with a belt.
“The evidence at trial showed that Mr. Carter bragged about being a ‘pimp,’ and that he forced girls through violence and coercion to sell their bodies for his profit,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “No child should ever be subjected to this type of exploitation, which will forever haunt them and immeasurably alter their lives. This prosecution demonstrates law enforcement’s commitment to combating human trafficking on multiple fronts, including both traffickers like Carter and customers, while supporting the victims of exploitation.”
The case was tried before U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips, who is scheduled to sentence Carter July 18. At sentencing, Carter will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of life without parole.
“This verdict and the possible life prison sentence it carries should give solemn pause to anyone considering selling minors for sex,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “Those who sexually exploit young people for financial gain show that greed has no bounds. HSI will continue to work closely with its law enforcement partners and prosecutors to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”
The case against Carter stemmed from the rescue of a 16-year-old girl in 2013. The victim told investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and HSI she had been recruited by Carter to travel from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. When she arrived in Southern California, Carter forced her into prostitution. As part of his activities, Carter took this victim to a hotel in El Segundo and advertised her services on backpage.com. The victim “ran away at one point, but she found herself lost with no money and returned,” according to a trial memorandum filed in this case. “When she returned, the defendant beat her and whipped her with a belt for leaving.”
After this victim was rescued, investigators located six other girls who had been coerced or physically forced into prostitution by Carter between 2003 and 2010.
During the trial, the jury saw Facebook postings in which Carter described himself as a “cross country pimp” who worked for “Pimpin International.” The jury also saw photos of tattoos with the “Birdd” moniker that victims were forced to get.