A husband-and-wife duo who federal officials say recruited girls ages 12-18 and traveled around the country with them selling them as prostitutes to older men have been charged in federal court in East St. Louis.
One of their accusers, a metro-east girl identified in the criminal complaint as MVI, told investigators she earned approximately $1,000 a day through prostitution for her captors, from about June 9 until July 4.
The defendants, Marcus Dewayne Thompson and Robin Thomson, who is also known as Robin Lott, went before Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams on Thursday. Dewayne Thompson waived his detention hearing, so the judge ordered that he be held until a grand jury decided whether to issue an indictment.
The judge granted a request by Robin Thompson’s attorney to have more time to prepare for her detention hearing. She’ll be back in Williams’ courtroom Monday.
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The Thompsons are from Park Hills, Mo.
MVI told police she witnessed Marcus Thompson break into places and steal items of value that were later pawned. She said he carried multiple guns and was violent toward her and the others. The girl said on one occasion, when she refused to have anal sex with a man, Marcus Thompson beat her. And when she once tried to escape into some woods, Thompson beat her again.
MVI said Thompson threatened her and others with being killed and thrown to the alligators in a swamp if they tried to escape. MVI said she believed that one girl, who is not identified in the criminal complaint, was thrown to the alligators.
U.S Attorney Stephen Wigginton said he and the assistants who are prosecuting the case plan to fight to keep Robin Thompson behind bars.
“I can’t imagine what the father must be going through. I am a father of a daughter. As a parent, to know what this man and woman did to your daughter, I can’t imagine what the family is going through,” Wigginton said.
MVI’s father was in the courtroom Thursday, and stared intently at the Thompsons.
The criminal complaint accuses the husband-wife duo of recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting and advertising girls for sex.
The Thompsons forced the underage children and some adults to “engage in commercial sex acts using means of force, threats of force, fraud and coercion,” the federal criminal complaint says.
On July 25 at approximately 10:34 p.m., the National Human Trafficking Response Center contacted the Chicago Division of the FBI to report that a 15-year-old girl, whom the complaint identified as MVI, was located at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. The report also identified the Thompsons as the people who recruited the 15-year-old and took her to Orlando, Fla., St. Louis, New Mexico, Nashville, Tenn., and Texas.
On July 27, FBI agents obtained a missing-person report from MVI’s local police agency that confirmed MVI was last seen by her family on the morning of June 9.
The 15-year-old somehow got away from the Thompsons and told her parents, which led to the charges against the Thompsons.
MVI, who is from the East St. Louis area, told police she “was walking down the street in Madison and was approached by Marcus Thompson.”
“Marcus Thompson told her she could earn money as a model and for this reason she agreed to get into the white pickup truck” he was driving, according to court records.
When she got inside the truck, MVI said there were four other girls there already. MVI believed the girls were ages 12 to 18, the criminal complaint said.
According to the complaint, while MVI was in the truck, she told Thompson she was only 15 years old, and he said, “That’s fine.”
The complaint says Thompson returned the white truck to a vehicle-rental business and began driving MVI around in a brown pickup truck that MVI thought belonged to Thompson.
MVI said she was with the Thompsons when they stole a camper from a camper retailer somewhere in Missouri “so they would have somewhere to stay.” After they stole the camper, they drove for about nine or 10 hours before they stopped at a hotel. The following day, “they arrived in Orlando, Fla., and parked at a campsite,” the complaint said.
The girl told police that Marcus Thompson “took pictures of her on the bed for online prostitution advertisements. Robin Thompson answered calls that came in from customers and set up the engagements,” the complaint states.
MVI “was forced to hide her face in the pictures by leaning her head as far back as she could. Some of the men the girl was forced to have sex with paid more to be able to take pictures and videos of her with their phones,” the complaint states.
MVI said she saw Marcus Thompson pick up a girl by the gate of Walt Disney World ‘to engage in prostitution,” the criminal complaint said.
One of the girls MVI remembered was Cassie, who is identified in the complaint as LNU, a 15-year-old girl who died in MVI’s arms at some point during the trip, according to the complaint.
Also according to the complaint:
The Thompsons stayed in Orlando for five days, selling the girls to different men. They went from Orlando to Nashville, Tenn., where the Thompsons continued to advertise the girls for prostitution. But, “it was not busy” so they left after two days. MVI said she had contact with police in Nashville, but did not say anything to them because she was scared of Marcus Thompson.
From there, the Thompsons took the girls throughout Florida, including Pensacola. From Pensacola, the group went to the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas and parked their camper behind Marcus Thompson’s grandfather’s property, which was near a wooded area. While in Texas, MVI said she was sold “to a mean trucker at a Flying J Truck stop for $2,000.” MVI was with the trucker for about two hours, she said. He took her back to the Thompsons because he thought she was “gonna snitch.”
On Aug. 9, Robin Thompson was spotted by a Ste. Genevieve police officer driving a blue Chevrolet Cavalier with no visible license plates. She was followed closely by her husband, who was driving a silver Chevrolet Silverado pickup. The officer activated his emergency lights and directed Marcus Thompson to pull over. He did not obey. Robin Thompson pulled into a parking lot and her husband followed.
As the officer was walking to the vehicles, Marcus Thompson sped off in his truck. With assistance from a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper, the officer pursued Thompson. He abandoned the truck and escaped on foot. After securing a search warrant, on Aug. 13, the truck was searched by federal agents. They recovered a “blue notebook containing handwritten notes.”
The notes contained names, times, phone numbers, prices and codes known to law enforcement to reflect certain sex acts.
Wigginton said the defendants face 15 years to life in prison if convicted.
Wigginton said it is very difficult to find sex traffickers and prosecute them because they operate under the belly of society. He said many victims come from troubled homes or are poor and they are lured by sex traffickers under the guise of getting out of their present conditions and going to a better place.
“We have a 99 percent success rate,” Wigginton said. “The evil I see done to children on a daily basis is unspeakable. It’s every parent’s nightmare.”