Missouri man pleads guilty to sex trafficking

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A Springfield, Mo., man pleaded guilty Feb. 26 to transporting a 17-year old female from the Boston area into Rhode Island with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Stephen Ardrey, 30, was arrested Sept. 12, 2013, when he was located walking with the victim along a Coventry, R.I., highway three days after the victim had been reported missing from her home in Medfield, Mass. Ardrey faces a sentence of between 10 years to life in federal prison when he is sentenced May 15.

According to information presented to the court, the victim met Ardrey in December 2012 in an online chat room. In January 2013, Ardrey told the victim he had girls who worked for him as escorts. Over time communications between the victim and Ardrey via email and a service called "TextNow" intensified in frequency, and became sexual in nature. As the communications continued, Ardrey discussed selling the victim in order to make money so they could "go away" together.

According to the government’s evidence presented to the court, the victim met Stephen Ardrey at the public library in Medfield. Video surveillance at the library showed the victim leaving with Ardrey late that afternoon. The victim was reported missing by her parents later that evening. The victim and Ardrey traveled to Boston where Ardrey picked up money wired to him by an associate in Missouri, who worked as an escort for Ardrey in the past. The victim and Ardrey then traveled to Providence by train and then to a West Greenwich, R.I., motel where a room had been reserved by Ardrey’s associate in Missouri.

The investigation revealed the victim had sexual contact with Ardrey in the West Greenwich motel room on several occasions. According to the victim, Ardrey gave her "pointers" and "instructions" on different sex acts so she could better respond when she worked as an escort. At least one person responded to the Internet ads posted by Ardrey displaying provocative photographs of the victim with an advertising banner which read "Sweet girl next door -19." The person visited with the victim on two occasions. During the second encounter, Ardrey remained outside the door until after the individual left, at which time he collected the payment from the victim.

On Sept. 13, 2013, at about 6:30 a.m., the Coventry Police Department received a call from a local resident who observed a male and a female who fit the description of the reported missing girl from Medfield walking along Route 3 in Coventry. A responding officer recognized the young woman as being the missing person from Medfield. Ardrey provided the officer a Missouri identification card. The victim, who was not carrying any identification, initially identified herself as "Rose," the same name used in the Internet advertisement. Ardrey admitted to the officer the victim was the same girl whose picture had been shown on television and who had been reported missing.

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