These travelers insisted they were vacationers who happened to meet a Texas runaway on a Greyhound bus to Knoxville.
The FBI says LaDaniel Mitchell, 34, and Jodi Robicheaux, 24, are flesh peddlers who force runaways into prostitution.
Mitchell and Robicheaux are charged in U.S. District Court with sex trafficking. Both are being held without bond.
The pair were arrested in May in the parking lot of the Extended Stay America motel on Winston Road after the FBI received a tip they were pimping a 16-year-old girl at the motel.
FBI Agent Kristina Norris wrote in a criminal complaint Robicheaux, a prostitute who allegedly worked for Mitchell, and Mitchell were getting into a car with the teenager when arrested.
The girl, a runaway from Dallas, Texas, claimed she was 18 but soon conceded her real age. Norris said she continued to lie out of fear, saying she had been a prostitute since the age of 14 and came to Knoxville on her own “to make a lot of money.”
“All (the girl) would say about Robicheaux and Mitchell is that they had smoked pot together and that they promised to help her,” Norris wrote.
Mitchell and Robicheaux insisted they met the teenager on a Greyhound bus and wound up at the same motel by happenstance.
Norris’s probe concluded Mitchell bought three bus tickets in Dallas, and the trio boarded the bus together.
The girl had no money. Instead, her purse was filled with condoms, a pregnancy test kit and a book called “Seduction.” An ad for her services posted on Backpage.com actually showed a photograph of a younger Robicheaux similar to one Robicheaux had on her prostitution business cards, which had the name “Lexi Styles” and Robicheaux’s phone number and email address printed beneath, according to court records.
Mitchell had $1,300 in cash in his pocket, Norris wrote.
Mitchell and Robicheaux were convicted in Albuquerque, N.M., in 2012 of pimping another teenaged runaway. The victim in that case also lied — until Mitchell was jailed, records showed. A second runaway later came forward to say she, too, had been a victim of Mitchell and Robicheaux.
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