Monday, 16 August 2021 16:49

Complaint filed in federal court against pair charged in Myrtle Beach sex trafficking case

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — A man and woman accused in a sex trafficking case that crossed state lines could face life in prison.


Federal prosecutors announced Monday that charges had been filed in a criminal complaint against 34-year-old Johnny Thomas of Durham and 25-year-old Becca Mills of Whispering Pines for the defendants’ alleged roles in child sex trafficking and cocercion and enticement of a minor in the Myrtle Beach area.

Citing court records, prosecutors say the pair posted commercial sex ads for minors, who were engaged in sexual encounters in Fayetteville and Myrtle Beach.

Both Mills and Thomas are accused of participating in some of the encounters.

Prosecutors allege that Mills told one of the minors that, as long as she did what she was told, Thomas would not hurt her.

Thomas is also accused of threatening one of the minors multiple times, saying that if she did not perform sexual acts, he would sell her to someone who would chain her to a bed, shoot her up with heroin, and cut off body parts.

The case is being investigated by the Myrtle Beach Police Department, Rockingham Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations.

Rockingham PD became involved in late March of 2019 when officers received a call from Walmart regarding a suspicious note left behind.

A young man had received out-of-state funds from the Money Center and dropped a note saying he had been kidnapped, which the teller didn’t read until after he had left, investigators say. After reading it, the teller told a manager, who called police.

While reviewing security footage, officers say they saw three individuals, including the alleged victim and Thomas, as well as the vehicle they were in.

The license plate came back registered the alleged victim with a BOLO for Thomas out of Myrtle Beach in a human trafficking case, investigators say.

While officers were investigating, they say they received another call from Walmart, reporting that the vehicle was back.

Police quickly went to execute a traffic stop, where they found two women in the car, according to investigators. During questioning, the women said that Thomas and the alleged victim were at a home on Elizabeth Avenue.

Around a dozen patrol cars from the RPD and Richmond County Sheriff’s Office zoomed down Broad Avenue to Rockingham Road, then to Long Drive and Richmond Road.

During a door-to-door search, investigators say Thomas and the alleged victim walked up to deputies for directions to the nearest gas station and to ask what was going on.

“Luckily, the deputies were able to recognize and detain him” based on the descriptions that had been given out, Detective Lt. George Gillenwater told the RO at the time.

Mills was charged the following June.

According to court records, the funds from the sex acts were used for food, gas and other expenses; and that the group traveled from Richmond, Virginia, to Fayetteville and then to Myrtle Beach.

Initially, both Thomas and Mills were charged with two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor — for reportedly providing the alleged victims with marijuana — and one count of trafficking in persons.

South Carolina court records show both were charged this summer with three counts of criminal conspiracy and one count each of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, promoting the prostitution of a minor and trafficking in persons with the victim under the age of 18.

Online records show those charges as currently pending. However, according to the 15th Circuit Solicitor's office, the state charges will eventually be dropped.

Thomas also has a pending assault and battery charge in Horry County.

According to a press release, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Derek A. Shoemake and Lauren Hummel and Special Asst. U.S. Attorney Scott Hixson are prosecuting the case, which is part of a collaborative effort by federal and state partners in the Myrtle Beach area to combat sex trafficking and child exploitation.

Hixon is also the chief deputy solicitor for the 15th Judicial Circuit, which oversees cases in Horry and Georgetown counties.

The maximum penalty for the defendants, if found guilty, is life in prison, according to the press release.

Acting United States Attorney Michael Rhett DeHart stated that all charges in criminal complaints are merely accusations and that all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Anyone with information relevant to this investigation is encouraged to call the HSI Tipline at 1-866-347-3423.

 

Last modified on Monday, 16 August 2021 18:25