Three Memphis, Tennessee, men accused of enslaving and beating prostitutes in New Orleans pleaded guilty to federal charges Monday, bringing to five the number of pimps convicted here in an interstate sex trafficking ring.
Christopher “Gutter” Williams, Duane “P-Nut” Phillips and Anthony “Animal” Ellis admitted to conspiring to commit sex trafficking. They face up to life in prison under federal law; they are scheduled to be sentenced July 15.
Court records filed Monday revealed new details of the oppressive and violent enterprise the men managed in New Orleans and beyond.
The self-styled pimps routinely beat their prostitutes and joked about it, prosecutors said.
They required the women to adhere to a strict code of behavior and took drastic measures to keep them from escaping. In at least one instance, Phillips required one of his women to get a tattoo that identified her as belonging to him.
“The women that he prostituted were not allowed to speak to or look at any other pimps,” court documents say. “On multiple occasions, Phillips ordered one of the women whom he had forced and coerced to prostitute to physically assault other women who had broken his rules.”
Williams demanded that his prostitutes refer to him as “Daddy” and show him respect at all times. He required them to earn at least $500 on a typical weekday and $800 on the weekend, taking all of their earnings.
Court documents say he sought to impregnate the women “because he thought that it would be harder for the women to leave him if they had a child with him.”
The documents say he would punch and kick women who disobeyed him, generally striking them on parts of their body that would not be visible in public. Once, however, he broke a woman’s nose.
Some of the pimps, including Phillips, drove the women to places such as Baltimore and Washington, D.C., where they were forced to perform sex acts, prosecutors said. During a trip to Houston, Ellis ordered a prostitute who he said had disrespected him in front of other pimps to stand in the corner of a room, depriving her of food for eight or nine hours.
The men watched one another’s backs, bailing each other out of jail and keeping an eye on prostitutes belonging to a fellow pimp if he faced an extended period of incarceration.
In New Orleans, the prostitutes advertised their services online. They were forced to live and work in various motels whose managers apparently looked the other way, yet charged the pimps a higher rate to account for the increased traffic to the rooms, court documents show.
Ellis is the nephew of Granville Robinson, another alleged pimp charged in the case. Court documents say Robinson once struck a prostitute with a glass coffee pot and severely beat another woman with a piece of wood.
Two other Memphis men — Zacchaeus Taylor, described in court records as Phillips’ protégé, and LaQuentin “Nino” Brown — previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.
A seventh defendant, Kanubhai Patel, of Kenner, a septuagenarian known as “Mr. Kenny,” has been charged with benefiting financially from participating in a sex trafficking venture. Court records show he’s expected to plead guilty next month.
The case was investigated by the New Orleans field offices of the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations, as well as the FBI’s Memphis office.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.