MINNEAPOLIS – A US attorney announced this week that a Texas man entangled in a sex trafficking sting operation at a major motorcycle rally has pled guilty to commercial sex trafficking.
Timothy Charles Gravens, age 54, of Grapevine, Texas, appeared before Chief Judge Jeffrey L. Viken, U.S. District Court, on March 12, 2014, and entered his guilty plea.
The maximum sentence for this charge is a mandatory minimum term of 15 years in federal prison, up to a maximum of life in prison, and/or a $250,000 fine. The guilty plea will also result in the forfeiture of Gravens’ 2012 Harley Davidson motorcycle and his Apple iPhone 4s, which he used to negotiate a commercial sex act.
Gravens was one of nine men who were arrested and federally indicted as a result of a sex trafficking undercover operation conducted during the 2013 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, targeting persons wanting to have sex with underage girls. All nine men were indicted for commercial sex trafficking.
“This conviction is further proof that we take sex trafficking very seriously in South Dakota,” said US Attorney Brendan V. Johnson. “Gravens came to Sturgis for a good time, thought he would have illegal sex with a child, and then just return home to his life in Texas. Instead, he became a poster child for sex trafficking felons, and will spend at least the next 15 years in a federal prison.”
The conviction stems from last summer’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, when Gravens responded to a Craigslist.com advertisement which purported to offer young girls for sex. Gravens chose a 13-year-old girl and negotiated the arrangements with the undercover agent, including the price he was willing to pay to have sex with the young girl. When Gravens went to pick up the girl at the pre-determined location, he was instead met by law enforcement agents and placed under arrest.
Of the nine original defendants, five have pled guilty. One has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, and the other four await sentencing. The remaining four are scheduled for trial.
The undercover operation and arrests were a joint effort between the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Rapid City Police Department, and the Pennington County Sheriff’s office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Collins is prosecuting the cases.
Gravens was returned to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending sentencing.