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Visalia man accused of forcing teens into prostitution

Fresno Police Department
Fresno Police Department
Wikimedia Commons

A Visalia man was indicted Thursday on three counts of sex trafficking of minors by force, fraud and coercion, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California announced. Tyrell Richmond, 31, allegedly detained three female, teenage runaways in a Fresno motel. Investigators allege that Richmond prostituted the girls for about a week in Fresno and Visalia.

The girls were not allowed to leave the motel room, other that to get ice, prosecutors said. They were forced to turn all money they received from sex acts to Richmond. All three girls are said to be 16 years old.

Richmond was also charged with one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Richmond has three felony convictions, according to prosecutors. The nature of the previous convictions was not disclosed.

The arrest was the result of a joint investigation by the FBI’s Fresno Child Exploitation Task Force, the Fresno Police Department Vice Unit and the Visalia Police Department. Prosecutor is Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Frye. The investigation was part of an undercover operation targetting prostitutes who appear to be underage.

Richmond remains in custody. According to prosecutors, he faces a sentence of 15 years to life in prison, as well as a $250,000 fine. Actual sentencing would be determined by federal sentencing guidelines.

Prosecutors successfully sought the indictment through a federal grand jury. The charges are only allegations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, and Richmond is presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, No trial date was announced.