Vanessa Miller, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa –
A brother and sister from Iowa City, along with an Ohio man, have been arrested on suspicion of federal sex-trafficking charges after investigators found evidence they took three minor girls from Iowa City to Chicago for prostitution purposes.
Malik McKee, 19, and his sister Shuntina McKee, 23, both of Iowa City and formerly of Country Club Hills, Ill., were arrested Monday in Iowa City, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Illinois.
Willie Woods, 41, of Toledo, Ohio, and formerly of Iowa City, was arrested Friday in Toledo, according to the attorney’s office.
All three defendants face charges of conspiracy to transport minors across state lines to engage in prostitution, and the federal government is seeking to have all three transferred back to Chicago to face charges there.
According to a detailed criminal complaint, the defendants used coercion, force and the threat of force to make the three victims – ages 14, 16 and 16 – engage in commercial sex acts.
The investigation began on April 25 after a Cedar Rapids woman called police to report her 14-year-old daughter was missing and believed to be in Chicago. The woman said her daughter had called earlier that morning to report she was being held against her will in a Chicago hotel.
The teenager told police she had left her hotel room while the others were asleep to call her mother. Her report prompted federal authorities to get involved, according to the attorney’s office.
A criminal complaint states that the three teenage girls met up in early April at Woods’ Iowa City house, where they stayed with McKee, who provided them alcohol and marijuana. The girls told investigators that Woods and McKee took pictures of them in lingerie and high heels and posted them on backpage.com, a prostitution solicitation website, according to the criminal complaint.
Pictures of the 14-year-old girl were used in online advertisements for escorts in Iowa City on Feb. 29 and April 7. Pictures of one of the 16-year-old girls, dressed in lingerie, were used in an Iowa City online escort ad on April 8, according to the complaint.
The girl’s age was listed as 18 in the advertisement.
According to the complaint, the teens told police that McKee arranged “dates” for them while they were at Woods’ house in Iowa City, meaning individuals came over with the intent to have sex.
“Minor C told Minor B that they would have people come over to have sex for money and that they were not allowed to talk to anyone for free,” according to the complaint.
One of the teenagers reported calling McKee their “daddy,” according to the complaint, and explaining that all their money from the dates would go to McKee. They believed that McKee was putting the money they earned into a bank account for them to access when they turned 18, investigators reported.
After a few dates, the girls reportedly talked about leaving. One of the girls told McKee she wanted to go home and he said, “Naw, (expletive), you ain’t going nowhere,” according to the complaint.
Two of the girls also reported having sexual contact with McKee in Iowa City, according to the complaint.
McKee eventually told the girls they were going to Chicago, despite at least one of the girls saying she didn’t want to go. Records received from Greyhound show that a bus ticket from Iowa City to Chicago for at least one of the girls was bought on April 10.
Shuntina McKee, using the nickname “Precious,” is accused of meeting the girls at a hotel in Chicago, according to the complaint. McKee is accused of providing drugs and alcohol to the minors there and taking photos of the girls to post on backpage.com.
Dates again were arranged in Chicago by both Malik McKee and his sister, according to investigators. The girls reported that the McKees seemed to be competing for the money they were bringing in, and the teens reported feeling threatened to participate.
The 14-year-old girl reported having a date daily for three weeks to a month, according to the complaint.
The girls were rarely allowed out of the hotel room and asked to go home several times, according to the complaint.
After their arrests, investigators interviewed Malik McKee, who admitted to much of the allegations, according to the complaint.
Sex-trafficking of minors carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
According to Iowa court records, McKee was charged in Johnson County with possession of a controlled substance in late February, and he was scheduled to be in court on that charge on April 6. He failed to appear for that hearing, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest, according to court records.