Houston native Malcom Lenard Thomas admitted in court that he communicated with who he thought was a 15-year-old female whom he hoped to recruit for sex work for his financial gain, according to the U.S. State Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.
Thomas, 23, entered a guilty plea on Monday for enticement of a minor online, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Thomas connected with the supposed female in October 2021. In those conversations, he conveyed his expectations to recruit her to engage in commercial sex in Houston and said the money earned would go to him, calling it the rules of “the game,” the attorney’s office said.
He instructed her on how to send him money via social media and other means in a series of exchanges. He then bought a bus ticket for her to get to Houston, and he made plans to pick her up on October 29, 2021. When he arrived, law enforcement arrested him.
He admitted in his plea that he sent the bus ticket knowing the minor was coming to Houston to engage in commercial sex. He claimed that his role would be to protect her.
U.S. District Judge Charles Eskridge will issue the sentence on September 15. Thomas faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in federal prison, a maximum of life in prison, and a possible $250,000 fine.
Thomas will be held in custody until the hearing.
The investigation was carried out by the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA).
HTRA was founded in 2004 by the United States Attorney’s Office in Houston to pool resources with federal, state, and local law enforcement, prosecutors, and non-governmental service organizations to target human traffickers while providing necessary services to those victimized by traffickers.
The alliance has been recognized as a national and international model for identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking, as well as prosecuting those involved in trafficking offenses, since its inception.
At the end of last month, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in the El Paso division of Texas recovered 70 missing children who were the victims of trafficking, The Dallas Express reports.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) partnered up with teams from federal, local, and state agencies to assist in the location and recovery of the children. Operation Lost Souls was conducted over three weeks before finding success.
Members of the Houston Police Department, FBI, Texas Attorney General’s Office, IRS – Criminal Investigation, Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission, Texas DPS, Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General (OIG), Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security – OIG and HSI, and the sheriff’s offices in Harris and Montgomery counties make up HTRA law enforcement.