Baltimore, Maryland - US. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced Joshua Lankford, aka “20-20,” aka “Light Bright,” aka “Yellow,” age 33, of Manchester, Maryland, was sentenced to 17 years in prison with five years of supervised release and $2,320 in restitution for kidnapping in relation to a sex trafficking conspiracy.

According to court documents, Lankford led and organized a conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion and to commit kidnapping. The evidence indicated that Lankford recruited the victim, a young adult woman, to engage in prostitution under fraudulent pretenses. Lanford knew that the victim was addicted to heroin and withheld drugs from her when she did make enough money for him engaging in commercial sex. When the victim attempted to escape, Lankford and his three co-defendants drove the victim to a rural road on Maryland’s Eastern Shore where they beat, whipped and choked her with a belt, and then drove her to a hotel in Delaware to engage in prostitution. While incarcerated, Lankford told a co-conspirator that he intended to kill the victim to prevent her from testifying against them at trial.

“This defendant preyed on a vulnerable young woman and cruelly exploited her for his profit,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Sex trafficking is a heinous crime that has no place in our society. This sentence reflects the defendant’s horrific crime – a crime that deprives some of society’s most vulnerable members of their freedom and dignity. The Civil Rights Division will continue its vigorous enforcement of our human trafficking laws to hold perpetrators accountable and to seek justice for survivors of these heinous crimes.”

“Lankford exploited a young woman’s drug dependency and desire to establish a better life for herself and her child to enslave her and deprive her of human rights and dignity for his own profit,” said U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron for the District of Maryland. “Further, he attempted to continue the abuse the victim and sabotage our justice system by conspiring to kill the victim in the effort to derail the federal prosecution of his dehumanizing crimes” said U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron for the District of Maryland. “Let this sentence serve as a light to survivors impacted by human trafficking and as a deterrent to those conspiring to commit heinous human trafficking crimes.”

“Joshua Lankford’s crimes were nothing short of horrific; he kidnapped and victimized a vulnerable woman then plotted to kill her in order to save himself,” said Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of HSI Baltimore. “The atrocities of his crimes are clearly reflected in the severity of his sentence, and today, he will begin to pay his debt to society. HSI Baltimore remains committed to investigating human trafficking organizations as they prey upon the most vulnerable populations in our communities.”

This case was investigated by law enforcement agencies that are members of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, formed in 2007 to discover and rescue victims of human trafficking while identifying and prosecuting offenders. Members include federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as victim service providers and local community members. For more information about the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, please visit

Report suspected instances of human trafficking and sex trafficking to HSI's tip line at 866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.

The guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke; U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron for the District of Maryland; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Colonel Woodrow W. Jones III, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police; Chief Michael McDermott of the Federalsburg Police Department; and Colonel Melissa Zebley of the Delaware State Police Department.

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore, the Maryland State Police, the Federalsburg Police Department, and the Delaware State Police. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Setzer for the District of Maryland and Trial Attorney Leah L. Branch of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.