Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; and Franklin C. Adderly, Chief of Police, Fort Lauderdale Police Department, announced yesterday’s sentencing of Van Lawson Williams, 49, of Fort Lauderdale, on charges of sex trafficking and attempted sex trafficking of minors, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1591(a). At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley sentenced Williams to life in prison.
On October 30, 2012, a jury found defendant Williams guilty of four counts of sex trafficking of minors and one count of attempted sex trafficking of minors. At trial, six victims, all runaways at the time they met Williams, testified that they worked or were recruited to work as prostitutes at Williams’ residence. According to the trial evidence, Williams sought out minor female runaways in his neighborhood and invited them to stay with him at his Fort Lauderdale residence, promising them food and shelter. Williams would then convince the girls to work as prostitutes, telling them that they could not stay for free but rather had to earn money to pay the bills. The victims testified that on most occasions, they were required to give Williams the money they collected for their prostitution services. Several of the victims testified that Williams provided them with illegal narcotics, including marijuana and crack cocaine, and that he engaged in or attempted to engage in sexual activity with them.
At the sentencing hearing, one of the victims read a letter she had written to the court, describing the shame she still feels every day when she looks in the mirror. Another victim, only 12 when she was prostituted by Williams, wrote a letter to the court in which she described the damage that she had suffered as a result of Williams’ actions and wrote of her dream to one day meet and marry a sweet man.