A Huntsville man on Tuesday pleaded guilty to federal court to charges that he paid the father of a 15-year old boy so he could have sexual contact with the child.
U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and ICE Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Jere T. Miles announced the plea in a statement on Wednesday.
Billy R. Edwards, age 63, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor to charges of commercial sex trafficking, coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in prostitution and being a convicted felon in possession of firearms.
His sentencing is scheduled for September 12.
The father, Darwin Moises Amador-Zepeda age 38, is a Honduran national. Amador-Zepeda is charged with commercial sex trafficking and coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in prostitution. Amador-Zepeda’s case is proceeding to trial, but a date has not been set for the trial.
“The trafficking of any human being, especially a child, is unconscionable, unthinkable, and unforgivable,” Town said. “Our Human Trafficking Task Force remains committed to bringing these despicable traffickers to justice and we have reserved bed space in prison for them all, which will only serve as temporary quarters on their road to perdition.”
Edwards admits in his plea agreement that he began paying Amador-Zepeda in 2014 so that he would persuade or coerce his 15-year-old son to have sexual encounters with Edwards.
Edwards said in his plea agreement that during the ongoing sexual trafficking of the child, Edwards often paid Amador-Zepeda by check, and the two men used cell phones to induce or coerce the child to engage in sexually explicit conduct, according to Edwards’ plea agreement.
The sexual encounters with the child continued for several months until Edwards stopped paying to have them,
At that point, allegedly Amador-Zepeda began blackmailing Edwards, threatening to show law enforcement the cell phone communications between him and the child unless Edwards paid him. Amador-Zepeda told the child what to say in English to deliver the blackmail threat, according to Edward’s plea agreement. The two men later executed a contract for Edwards to make a series of payments totaling $20,000 to Amador-Zepeda in exchange for the cell phone containing the incriminating evidence.
In May 2017, the child told law enforcement about the sex trafficking. In September 2017, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office obtained a warrant and searched Edwards’ residence, finding an Industrial National de Armes .38-caliber revolver, a Jimenez Arms .25-caliber pistol, a Bryco Jennings .380-caliber pistol and a Winchester model 1400 MKII shotgun. Edwards previously was convicted of a felony, conspiracy to commit fraud, in the Northern District of Alabama in 2005.
The penalty for commercial sex trafficking is 15 years to life in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. The penalty for coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in prostitution is 10 years to life in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for being a convicted felon in possession of firearms is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s HSI, in conjunction with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office and the Madison County District Attorney’s Office, investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorneys Xavier Carter and Carla Ward are prosecuting.
Child sex trafficking is a growing criminal industry.