COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - A federal jury in Iowa has found a 28-year-old New Jersey man guilty of running a nationwide sex trafficking and prostitution ring.
Jurors in Council Bluffs on Tuesday found Johnelle Bell guilty on 12 counts of sex trafficking and interstate prostitution.
Prosecutors say Bell was a pimp who ran a Little Rock, Ark.-based traveling prostitution venture that operated in states from Texas to Maryland. They say Bell lured troubled young women to join under promises of help and long-lasting relationships that soon evaporated.
Testimony showed Bell severely assaulted 1 of the workers and forced another to engage in prostitution by threatening to harm her family and young daughter.
Prosecutors uncovered the ring after an undercover FBI agent posed as a customer in response to prostitution ads on Backpage.com in Omaha.Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.