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Jury finds man guilty in LR-based sex-trafficking case

By The Associated Press

This article was published November 21, 2012 at 3:30 p.m.

— 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 one 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.

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