COOK COUNTY, Ill. (WITI) — Two Wisconsin women were arraigned Monday, May 20th on sex trafficking charges for transporting a teenage girl to Illinois and forcing her to engage in the ongoing sale of sexual services for their personal profit, according to the Office of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
Elizabeth Roeder, 34, of Milwaukee, WI, and Shannon Hathaway, 41, of Stoughton, WI, have been charged with Involuntary Sexual Servitude of a Minor and Trafficking in Persons, both Class 1 felonies with a penalty of four to 15 years in prison.
According to prosecutors, the 17-year-old victim was dating Roeder’s teenaged son in Wisconsin and last March Roeder brought the victim to Illinois and began posting ads on the internet for both of them to work as “escorts.” Roeder then met Hathaway in Illinois and the two joined forces, posting ads for themselves and the victim to work as “escorts,” renting hotel rooms, arranging the dates and collecting all of the money.
Both Roeder and Hathaway kept the proceeds from their own acts of prostitution as well as the victim’s encounters, but the victim never received any of the financial proceeds. According to prosecutors, Roeder forced the victim to engage in prostitution, even though the victim expressed an unwillingness to do so.
Alvarez said Cook County and the state of Illinois are locations in which sex trafficking has very serious consequences thanks to the specialized Human Trafficking Initiative operated by the State’s Attorney’s Office.
“We have some powerful new laws on the books here in Illinois to attack this crime and we do not hesitate to use them,” Alvarez said. “The sexual services of teenagers are not for sale in our jurisdiction and we will continue to do everything within our power to ensure that juveniles are not being exploited for the purposes of sex trafficking.”
On April 10, 2013, an undercover officer from the Sheriff’s Police Vice Unit responded to an online ad and booked a date asking for Roeder, based on the name and photo that appeared in the advertisement. When the officer arrived at the hotel room in River Grove, Hathaway was waiting in the room with the victim. Hathaway negotiated the date with the officer and left the room. The minor was taken into custody, where it was then discovered that she was 17-years-old.
Roeder and Hathaway were taken into custody a short time later. Hathaway had the cash she received from the undercover officer with her and it was discovered that Roeder’s cell phone was the contact number listed in the online advertisement.
Both women pleaded not guilty during their arraignment. Their next court date is June 11, 2013.