Taquarius Ford approached a 17-year-old girl at the Boise Towne Square mall in 2011 and told her he was an advertising executive from California looking for new talent.
A year later, he flew the woman to Los Angeles, wined and dined her and took her to a party at the Playboy Mansion. Then he coerced her into having unwanted sex. When she protested, Ford choked her and raped her, federal prosecutors allege.
There never was a modeling contract. Ford used the ploy to pressure the woman, identified in court documents by the initials T.H., and others to engage in prostitution. In all, Ford forced six women into prostitiution — three of them from Idaho — between 2007 and 2013, prosecutors say. The other victims were from Oregon and Arizona.
Ford, 37, went on trial this week in federal court in Portland, Ore. He is charged with sex trafficking, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and tampering with a witness. The trial is expected to last two weeks.
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T.H. was rescued after a clerk at a hotel near Portland International Airport became suspicious that prostitution was taking place in one of the rooms. He notified police, who began a two-year investigation into Ford’s activities.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah Bolstad said in a trial brief Ford never operated an advertising agency, but used photos of himself with Hollywood celebrities to make it appear he ran a legitimate business. Another one of the Idaho victims, identified as J.D., told investigators she accompanied Ford to a party at Paris Hilton’s house and met the celebrity.
Defense attorney Laurie Bender told the jury in opening statements that the women voluntarily engaged in sex acts for money, the Oregonian newspaper in Portland reported. The women, Bender said, were not compelled or forced to do anything.
Ford’s co-defendant, Konia Prinster, 28, pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy. Prinster, who returned voluntarily from her native Ukraine to face charges in the case, is expected to be called as a witness by prosecutors.