Sacramento, California - On Thursday, after a seven-day trial, a federal jury found Christopher Ramonaguilar Lawrence, 24, of Chico, guilty of one count of sex trafficking of a child and one count of distribution of methamphetamine to a person under 21, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, in July and August 2017, Lawrence recruited a then 17-year-old girl to engage in prostitution for his financial benefit. Lawrence used social media to communicate with the victim, and on two occasions, he lured the victim to Chico motel rooms where he gave the victim methamphetamine, explained the methods of his prostitution business, including how to detect and evade law enforcement, and continued to recruit the victim to work for him as a prostitute.
“Sex traffickers prey upon the vulnerabilities of their young victims, luring them into a cycle of physical and psychological abuse and addiction that is often difficult to escape,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI Sacramento Field Office. “The FBI is committed to identifying and apprehending individuals who sexually exploit others for financial gain. We seek to provide victims with an opportunity to escape the violent existence they have endured and ensure their exploiters face justice.”
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Chico Police Department, and the Butte County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian A. Fogerty and Quinn Hochhalter are prosecuting the case.
Lawrence faces a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison, a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison, and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.