Ashanti Welton McLean, 28, of Harnett County took responsibility for McLean's role in trafficking and promoting the prostitution of a minor in New Hanover County Superior Court Monday, according to a release from the office of District Attorney Ben David.
“McLean entered pleas of guilty to two counts of trafficking a child victim, four counts of promoting the prostitution of a child victim and for conspiring to commit these crimes with co-defendant Marvarlus Cortel Snead, 33, of Johnston County,” the release states.
“A joint investigation between the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed that Snead groomed the 17-year-old minor child to trust him and McLean, then transported the victim from her uncle’s house in Benson ... in order to engage in prostitution,” according to the release.
McLean and Snead both knew the victim was 17 and that she was homeless and hungry, prosecutors noted in the release. “McLean posted photographs of the child in advertisements online to attract customers paying for prostitution services.”
“The children who are victimized in human trafficking and promotion of prostitution crimes are most often kids who have not been protected or provided for sufficiently for most of their lives,” Assistant District Attorney Connie Jordan said in the release. “There are no family members looking for these kids. No one is reporting them missing. There’s no one coming to court in support of these children.”
District Attorney Ben David added, “My office helped to author and pass the Safe Harbor Act, one of the harshest laws in the country relating to human trafficking. It gives immunity to victims and allows them to have their criminal records expunged for prostitution charges. It makes pimping a felony and sends traffickers to prison for years.
“McLean is a human trafficker, not a victim,” David said in the release. “Any narrative to the contrary avoids the facts. There is no such thing as a child prostitute, only children who are being prostituted. We will continue to be a strong voice for victims and hold those who would exploit them fully accountable under the law.”
McLean will serve a minimum of eight and a maximum of 14.6 years in prison. Charges against McLean’s codefendant are still pending.
When released from prison, these convictions will require McLean to register as a sexual offender with the N.C. Sex Offender and Public Protection Registry for a period of 30 years, according to the release.
McLean was arrested on Jan. 25, 2018.