CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The FBI’s I-81 Human Trafficking Task Force has charged a Maryland man with using drug dependency to force at least five adult victims into commercial sex work, United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh and Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division, announced today.
William Oneil Murray III, 35, was indicted yesterday on three counts of sex trafficking through force, fraud, and coercion, one count of transporting individuals for the purpose of prostitution, and one count of using a facility of interstate commerce to facilitate prostitution.
“Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, and those who perpetrate it must be held accountable,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said today. “Exploiting victims’ drug dependency and addiction is the most common form of human trafficking we are seeing here in Virginia, and I am grateful to the I-81 Human Trafficking Task Force and the Virginia State Police for bringing this case to justice and providing some relief to these victims.”
“We are proud of the work the I-81 Human Trafficking Task Force is accomplishing via these multi-state partnerships. This case demonstrates how victims’ vulnerabilities are used against them and highlights the dedication of the men and women who work to bring justice for them,” said Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division. “ If you are a victim of human trafficking or you have information about a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888, where resources are available.”
“This case highlights the importance of having trained law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels working together to combat human trafficking in the Commonwealth and abroad,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “This investigation demonstrates the zero tolerance Virginia law enforcement, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have for those who prey on vulnerabilities and exploit other human beings for personal profit or gain.”
According to court documents, from as early as 2016 through July 2022, Murray engaged in a multi-state sex trafficking operation involving at least five adult female victims. Murray controlled his victims’ narcotics use, not allowing them to obtain drugs from anyone but himself, therefore taking complete control of each victim’s drug dependency.
In order to further control his victims and force them into commercial sex work, Murray withheld drugs from them, making them “dope sick,” a term one victim described as being like the flu but five times worse, based on withdrawal symptoms from heroin and other opiates.
Murry maintained strict control over his victims’ activities. Victims were not allowed to go anywhere without Murray’s permission and were punished if they did so. Court documents also claim Murray took all of his victims’ cell phones. Occasionally, Murray allowed his victims to use one of his phones to communicate with commercial sex customers but would regularly get print outs of call and text logs to ensure the victims were not texting or calling anyone but customers.
The alleged criminal behavior occurred in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, West Virginia, New York, New Jersey, and Florida.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s I-81 Human Trafficking Task Force (I-81 HTTF) and the Virginia State Police are investigating the case.
The I-81 HTTF is a collaborative effort of law enforcement and community partners focused on identifying instances of human trafficking along the I-81 corridor in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland; prosecuting those responsible; and providing assistance to the victims impacted by these crimes. The I-81 HTTF includes law enforcement from the counties of Frederick, Clarke, and Shenandoah as well as the cities and towns of Front Royal, Hagerstown, and Frederick, Maryland, and Lord Fairfax Community College.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melanie Smith and Sally Sullivan are prosecuting the case for the United States.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.