CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051
BUFFALO, N.Y.- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Anthony Burris, 30, of Jamestown, NY, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with sex trafficking and enticing travel to engage in sexual activity. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in prison, a maximum of life and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura A. Higgins, who is handling the case, stated that according to the criminal complaint, on January 21, 2021, a mother contacted the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office and reported the possible sex trafficking of her daughter (Victim 1). The mother reported that her daughter was involved in drug use and prostitution and had to perform sexual acts with others in exchange for drugs and other items from the defendant. In addition, the mother stated Burris was physically abusing her daughter. The mother provided Victim 1’s Facebook profile, which an investigator reviewed and recognized Victim 1 from ads he previously saw on a website used to post advertisements for commercial sex acts or other illicit business like the sale of controlled substances.
On February 28, 2021, Victim’s 1’s mother told investigators that she learned her daughter was assaulted by the defendant and was at a medical clinic in Erie, Pennsylvania seeking medical treatment for her injuries, which included significant bruising and swelling to her left eye and a laceration above her left eye. Victim 1’s mother stated that Victim 1 was assaulted because she was going to try and leave Burris. A law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania went to the medical clinic to speak with Victim 1 who was uncooperative, stating that she sustained her injuries from falling and refused any help. While in the parking lot of the medical clinic, the officer observed the defendant in a vehicle.
On March 3, 2021, an undercover law enforcement officer contacted Victim 1 and set up a “car date.” Investigators set up surveillance in the vicinity of the agreed upon meeting location and observed Burris driving a vehicle in the area. Investigators approached the vehicle and the defendant was identified as the driver and Victim 1 was identified as the front passenger. During a search of the vehicle, a bag full of condoms and lubricants, suspected controlled substances including a mixture of heroin and fentanyl, and marijuana, three cellphones, and $2,216 in cash were seized. After the search was completed, Burris was released and given an appearance ticket for Permitting Prostitution.
Subsequent investigation identified a second victim (Victim 2), who also suffered from drug addiction. On March 11, 2021, an undercover officer set up an appointment with Victim 2 using a contact number from an online ad. Once again investigators set up surveillance in the vicinity of the agreed upon meeting location, and once again Burris was observed in a vehicle in the area with a female passenger. Investigators approached the vehicle and arrested the defendant. Observed in plain view on the floor near the driver’s seat was a clear plastic baggie containing a white powdery substance suspected to be heroin. Additionally, two cellular phones were seized from the vehicle.
According to the complaint, Burris rarely gave Victim 1 and Victim 2 any of the money obtained through sex trafficking activities. The defendant would provide the victims with heroin. However, he would withhold drugs until they did what he wanted them to do, calling it “starving.”
A preliminary review of cell phones recovered from Victim 2 contained voluminous daily contact with sex buyers discussing details of sex acts, pricing, meeting locations, and times. Both phones also contained photographs of Victim 1 and Victim 2.
“This defendant is a violent predator who preyed upon the vulnerabilities of these victims, leaving them powerless to fight back” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “Our Office, together with our law enforcement partners at the federal, state, and local levels, will continue aggressively to pursue any individual who engages in sex trafficking, or any kind of human trafficking. Those who attempt to take away the freedom of victims through sex trafficking should expect that this Office will use every resource available in order to ensure that they, by way of criminal prosecution, will also lose their liberty.”
“The egregious acts identified as part of this joint investigation with Chautauqua County and the Amherst Police Department demonstrates our continued efforts to rid our communities of those who lack regard for human life,” said Kevin Kelly, HSI Special Agent-in-Charge. “Homeland Security Investigations will continue our commitment to investigating these abhorrent crimes and apprehending those who prey on the most vulnerable in our communities.”
The defendant made an initial appearance this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr. and was detained.
The complaint is the result of an investigation by the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff James B. Quattrone; Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly; the Amherst Police Department, under the direction of Chief Scott Chamberlin; and the Millcreek, PA, Police Department, under the direction of Chief Scott Heidt.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
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