CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A local man has been sentenced to eight years in prison for sex trafficking a minor. The sentencing is connected to a larger case involving two brothers who have since been arrested and accused of forcing a teen into prostitution and narcotics use.
Steven E. Ritter, 54, of Sharonville, was sentenced in U.S. District Court Wednesday to 96 months in prison. According to court documents, in April 2017, Ritter coordinated with two brothers to arrange for sexual acts with a 16-year-old female. Ritter paid $200 to William P. Washington, 38, of Cincinnati, for Washington to deliver narcotics and the minor victim to his hotel room.
There, Ritter engaged in sexual activity with the victim and they both used the narcotics. After doing so, Ritter called William Washington, Jr., 49, of Cincinnati, to come get the victim from the hotel.
Ritter pleaded guilty in February 2018 to one count of sex trafficking a minor. As part of his plea, Ritter admitted that on numerous previous occasions, he arranged personally and with others to pay Washington for narcotics and prostitutes. Some of those instances involved both an adult female and the minor victim.
The two brothers were each arrested in June 2017 on federal charges of sex trafficking a minor. According to their complaint, the minor victim was forced to engage in prostitution, was injected with heroin and forced to smoke crack cocaine. The victim told investigators she was often beaten and on one occasion had a gun held to her head while being forced to have sex with someone.
Every time she was forced to engage in prostitution, Washington and Washington, Jr. arranged her transportation and had control over the transactions.
Both brothers have pleaded guilty. Washington, Jr. has since filed to a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, and the court has yet to rule on that motion.
Sharonville police Sgt. Derek Broenner said the 16-year-old was a runaway from Clermont County. She was eventually found at the Woodspring Suites off Hauck Road in Sharonville.
“Our initial radio run was to respond to the hotel for a female subject stating someone was trying to kill her,” said Broenner.
Tonya Folks is the Human Trafficking Liason for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office -- she is also the owner of Human Trafficking Essentials, LLC.
“In hotels, what we’ll often see is there will be a young female made to look older,” she said. “She’ll try to look 18, sometimes she stands in the lobby, a lot of times they don’t know where they are.”
Folks says runaways are at extreme high risk of being recruited for labor and sex trafficking in the U.S.
“This young lady was recruited, her vulnerability was, ‘I need a place to stay, I need food,’” said Folks. “Recruitment is three easy steps -- we create a relationship, identify a vulnerability and exploit it.”
One in four girls -- one in six boys -- according the CDC, will be raped or molested by another child or adult before the age of 18 in the U.S.