Chicago Trio Indicted on Charges of Child Sex Trafficking in New Orleans

By Ken Daley, | The Times-Picayune
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on November 18, 2016 at 4:06 PM, updated November 18, 2016 at 4:13 PM

Three Chicagoans were indicted Thursday (Nov. 17) on charges of trafficking a 15-year-old Tennessee girl as a prostitute in New Orleans East.

The indictment handed up by an Orleans Parish grand jury charged Jonathan Wright, Chantle Thomas and Mario Defell each with one count of trafficking children for sexual purposes. Wright, 34, was charged with an additional count of carnal knowledge of a juvenile for allegedly having sex with the girl himself.

Criminal District Judge Ben Willard set Wright's bond at $2 million. Thomas, 36, and Defell, 22, had bonds set at $1 million each.

New Orleans police arrested Wright on Sept. 20 and Thomas on Sept. 21, after the teen girl made an allegation of sexual abuse at the NOPD's 7th District substation in New Orleans East.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit sworn by NOPD child abuse detective Bianca DeIrish, the girl was taken for a forensic interview at the Children's Advocacy Center, where she said she was taken by two men on a train from Memphis to New Orleans for the purposes of prostitution "because she wasn't making enough money on the track in Memphis."

The girl said she gave money earned from her "dates" to a man she knew only as "Yo," later identified by authorities as Defell. She said she boarded an Amtrak train with "Yo" and his friend "Dope," the man police said they later identified as Wright. The girl told police she had sex with Wright four times during the train trip to New Orleans, on orders from "Yo," because "Dope" was his friend.

The group checked into a motel in the 12000 block of the Interstate 10 West Service Road in New Orleans, the girl said, where she began bringing "dates" lured from Chef Menteur Highway. She also "willingly" continued having sex there with Wright, she told police, although the legal age of consent in Louisiana is 17.

The report said Wright was arrested while carrying a gun reported stolen from Orlando, Fla., and that the girl identified him as the man she knew as "Dope" from a photographic lineup.

Wright could face up to 60 years in prison if convicted on both charges. Thomas and Defell could face 15 to 50 years if convicted of their child sex trafficking allegation.