Grand Rapids, MI – On May 14th, a jury convicted Richardo Urbina, of Muskegon, after six days of trial on three counts of sex trafficking minors; three counts of attempting to sex traffic minors; conspiring to sex traffic minors; sex trafficking an adult by force, fraud, or coercion; distributing cocaine; distributing cocaine base; and conspiring to distribute cocaine. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison and a maximum sentence of life.
In May of 2015, Urbina—then 54—began recruiting 16 and 17-year-old girls to have sex for money. He targeted runaways, who needed money and a place to stay. Urbina gave the girls alcohol and cocaine to make it more likely they would agree to “dance” or give “massages” to make money. The girls learned the men expected more than “dancing” and “massages” when they were in the room with men who expected them to engage in sex acts. After the girls completed sex acts and received money, Urbina took half of it.
Around September of 2016, Urbina recruited then 18-year-old Francisco Soto to help him recruit more underage girls. Soto befriended the girls by contacting them through Facebook, and he would offer to party with them. While partying, Urbina and Soto approached the girls about “dancing” and giving “massages.”
Urbina and Soto used Backpage.com to advertise the girls for commercial sex, and the jury received over 500 pages of Backpage.com records in evidence. Urbina and Soto also used an application on their cell phones that allowed them to mask their true phone numbers. The jury received over 4,000 individual messages sent and received through the app, coordinating commercial sex dates.
At trial, ten girls testified about Urbina’s sexual exploitation of them while they were minors. One woman testified that during the summer of 2016, Urbina sex-trafficked her after learning she needed a place to stay. He originally offered to help her by letting her live with him. The first night she stayed with Urbina, he made her have sex for money. When she tried to get away, Urbina hit and choked her. He also told her she owed him $1,000 because he was making so much money off of her. She escaped Urbina by secretly booking a hotel room and moving into it while he slept.
The West Michigan Based Child Exploitation Task Force (WEBCHEX) investigated Urbina. The investigation included members of the FBI, Michigan State Police, Kent County Sheriff’s Office, and Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office. The case was tried by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Davin M. Reust and Alexis M. Sanford.
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