A federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment Thursday against Christopher Lawrence, 23, of Chico, charging him with the sex trafficking of a child by force and coercion, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
According to court documents, between July and October 2017, Lawrence recruited a 17-year-old girl, and by force and coercion, caused her to engage in commercial sex acts in various cities within the Eastern District of California.
According to the criminal complaint, on October 12, 2017, law enforcement agents found the victim in a Chico hotel during a multi-agency operation targeting child sex trafficking. Lawrence allegedly forced her to have sex with men in various cities, including Sacramento, Yuba City, Gridley, Oroville, Chico, Corning, Redding, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, and in the Bay Area. Lawrence allegedly supplied the victim with drugs and physically assaulted her.
This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Jill Thomas, Nirav Desai, and Amanda Beck are prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Lawrence faces a minimum term of 15 years in prison and a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison, and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. Click on the “resources” tab for information about internet safety education.