Home Kansas City Press Releases 2009 Northland Man Pleads Guilty to Attempted Sex Trafficking of a Child
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Northland Man Pleads Guilty to Attempted Sex Trafficking of a Child

U.S. Attorney’s Office September 16, 2009
  • Western District of Missouri (816) 426-3122

KANSAS CITY, MO—Matt J. Whitworth, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Kansas City, Mo., man pleaded guilty in federal court today to the attempted commercial sex trafficking of a child.

This conviction is the result of Operation Guardian Angel, a unique undercover law enforcement investigation targeting the demand for child prostitutes in the Kansas City metro area. As a result of this investigation, a total of seven defendants were indicted in the nation’s first-ever federal prosecution of the alleged customers of child prostitution under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Steven C. Albers, 40, of Kansas City-North, pleaded guilty before U.S. Chief District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan this afternoon to the charge contained in a March 10, 2009, federal indictment.

During the weekend of March 5 to 7, 2009, the Human Trafficking Rescue Project, led by the Independence Police Department, conducted a sting operation targeting local customers who solicit pimps to engage in commercial sex acts with children. The “children” were advertised online at Craig’s List. No real children were actually involved in the sting.

At approximately 9:33 a.m. on March 5, 2009, Albers responded via e-mail to an ad that advertised “little girls available.” The ad’s content clearly advertised the children for sex. Albers requested a lunch hour meeting so that he would have time to drive from his office near the Country Club Plaza. The undercover officer responded that he had an 11-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl available for sex. In a follow-up e-mail, Albers said he wanted to spend an hour with an 11-year-old girl at a cost of $100. In an e-mail later that morning, Albers said he wanted to spend half an hour with the 11-year-old girl but would pay an extra $20 to go “bareback,” referring to sexual intercourse without a condom, for a total price of $80.

When Albers arrived at the undercover house for the meeting at approximately noon, he provided the cash to the undercover officer and the arrest team came out from the bedroom. Albers took off running out the front door. The arrest team chased him out the front door and caught him in the neighbor’s front yard, placing him under arrest at that time.

Albers also admitted that he had responded earlier to the undercover advertisements that were part of Operation Guardian Angel on three separate occasions in January and February, in which he also tried to arrange a meeting to pay for sexual activity with the child being sold as a prostitute by her pimp.

By pleading guilty today, Albers also agreed to forfeit his 2002 Volkswagen Jetta, which was used to commit the offense.

Under federal statutes, Albers is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of life in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia L. Cordes. It was investigated by the Independence, Mo., Police Department, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in conjunction with the Human Trafficking Rescue Project.

Operation Guardian Angel

Operation Guardian Angel was conducted by the Human Trafficking Rescue Project, a joint task force from the Independence Police Department, the FBI, ICE, and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department. During the undercover operation, task force officers placed Internet ads for underage prostitutes. According to court documents, the ads clearly stated that the prostitutes were “little girls” and were “young.” Those who responded to the ads were given directions to an undercover location that was outfitted with audio and video recording equipment. When they arrived at the undercover residence and paid cash for a child prostitute, they were arrested by task force officers.

This operation marks the first time that the U.S. Department of Justice has utilized the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to prosecute customers who allegedly attempt to pay for sex with children. While the pimps who offer to sell children to others for prostitution have been prosecuted in the Western District and elsewhere, these indictments are the first in the nation to charge a “John” with attempting to pay for sex with a child.

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