Three Missouri men were sentenced to prison this week for a series of robberies that involved luring men with online prostitution and escort ads, federal officials announced Friday.
Rodney E. Brock, 21, of Blue Springs and Kenneth W. Sexson, 34, of Sugar Creek, Mo., were sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Sage Harrison, 36, of Independence was sentenced to five years.
They all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robberies and multiple counts of armed robbery.
The men participated in the conspiracy from April 2015 to June 2016, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Missouri.
A release from the office and court records state:
Female co-defendants posted ads on sites such as Craigslist.org and Backpage.com for prostitution and escort services.
The ads were "designed to lure men to meet in-person where other co-conspirators were lying in wait to rob them of electronics and cash."
The conspirators, using fake and real guns, threatened to shoot the victims, hit them and intimidate them by threatening to release photographs to expose them.
"The co-conspirators knew that these men were vulnerable, due to their responding to ads for sex or an escort, and were unlikely to contest the robbery or call the police," an assistant U.S. attorney wrote.
The most violent robbery involved a victim forced into his vehicle and held at gunpoint. The conspirators threatened to shoot the victim if he didn't produce the vehicle's title.
The victim jumped from the vehicle as it traveled at highway speeds on U.S. 71. He suffered injuries but lived.
Proceeds from the robberies were used for narcotics and rooms in which to use the narcotics.
Some of the conspirators were arrested after leading Independence police on a pursuit in a U-Haul cargo van. Sexson and Ray J. Mahurin, 34, of Blue Springs, were seen by police throwing two long guns from the U-Haul.
Police later recovered a loaded rifle and shotgun in the area of the chase. Both were stolen.
Officers also discovered a crossbow, a collapsible baton and multiple chainsaws in the U-Haul.
Mahurin was not charged in the robbery conspiracy but pleaded guilty to a drug charge and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Five others have pleaded guilty in connection to the case:
Melissa C. Cummins, 23, of Independence posted an online ad that lured one of the victims. She is awaiting sentencing.
Daphne J. Fruean, 37, of Independence; Nicole Covey, 35 of Sugar Creek; Devon Davis-Aumua, 23, of Independence; and Michele R. Shatto, 34, of Kansas City are also awaiting sentencing.
Backpage.com, an ad marketplace used to sell sex, was shutdown by U.S. law enforcement agencies earlier this month. Craigslist eliminated its "personals" section earlier this year after a new law made websites accountable for hosting sex trafficking content.