WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A Harnett County woman pleaded guilty in New Hanover County court in a prostitution and human trafficking case.
According to the New Hanover County District Attorney’s Office, Ashanti Welton McLean, 28 entered pleas of guilty to two counts of Trafficking a Child Victim, four counts of Promoting the Prostitution of a Child Victim, and for conspiring to commit these crimes with co-defendant Marvarlus Cortel Snead, 33.
A joint investigation between the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed that Snead groomed the seventeen-year-old victim to trust him. McLean then transported the victim from her uncle’s house in Benson in order to engage in prostitution.
McLean and Snead were arrested in January of 2018, when detectives with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office set up a prostitution sting to meet with a woman they met online, but when they got to the hotel, they found out she was a minor.
According to the news release, McLean and Snead both knew the victim was seventeen years old and that she was homeless and hungry.
McLean posted photographs of the child in advertisements online to attract customers paying for prostitution services.
Assistant District Attorney Connie Jordan stated, “The children who are victimized in human trafficking and promotion of prostitution crimes are most often kids who have not been protected or provided for sufficiently for most of their lives. There are no family members looking for these kids. No one is reporting them missing. There’s no one coming to court in support of these children.”
“My office helped to author and pass the Safe Harbor Act, one of the harshest laws in the country relating to human trafficking. It gives immunity to victims and allows them to have their criminal records expunged for prostitution charges. It makes pimping a felony and sends traffickers to prison for years,” said District Attorney Ben David. “Ms. McLean is a human trafficker, not a victim. Any narrative to the contrary avoids the facts. There is no such thing as a child prostitute, only children who are being prostituted.”
McLean will serve a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 14.6 years in prison.
Charges against Snead are still pending.
When released from prison, McLean will have to register as a sexual offender with the NC Sex Offender and Public Protection Registry for a period of thirty years.