Virginia man drugged women he met online, tricked them into life of prostitution

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Robert “Ace” Bonner, Jr., of Fredericksburg, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role in an interstate sex trafficking ring. Bonner was in charge of the ring which prostituted over 55 women in at least seven states, according to federal prosecutors. The operation was the largest sex trafficking venture ever discovered in the Eastern District of Virginia, they said.

“Bonner and his co-conspirators recruited victims from Internet websites by calling the victims and promising a better life. For example, he falsely promised various victims that he would permit them to keep a substantial portion of the money that they earned from prostitution,” federal prosecutors said. “Bonner specialized in sex trafficking women who had substance abuse issues and he used this to manipulate them. Bonner would sometimes get victims addicted to drugs, such as heroin, and then withhold those drugs until the victims performed commercial sex acts and gave him the proceeds. Bonner often intentionally allowed victims to experience severe symptoms of drug withdrawal as a means of punishing and controlling victims. If the victims balked at his demands, Bonner simply cut off the drug supply, which caused most victims to become compliant.”

One woman died as a result of his actions, prosecutors said.

“On July 25, 2013, Bonner instructed a co-conspirator to deliver a fentanyl patch to [a 21-year-old victim known as] Laurabeth. From this patch, Laurabeth absorbed a lethal dose of Fentanyl. She died in the hotel room from which Bonner was prostituting her,” prosecutors said.

In addition to using drugs to control women, Bonner also used force and other forms of coercion.

“Bonner often isolated women from their families and from each other to prevent them from leaving and to render them helpless,” prosecutors said. “With his size and demeanor, he also intentionally intimidated victims to ensure that they continued to prostitute and provide their prostitution proceeds to him. On one occasion, Bonner ordered a co-conspirator to beat one victim. He also frequently confiscated victims’ identification documents and victims’ cellular telephones (because they often contained the contact information of victims’ family members who might help them escape). Bonner also had a habit of anally sodomizing victims forcibly as a means of inflicting pain and punishing them.”

In addition to his prison sentence, Bonner was ordered to pay $317,750 to his victims and forfeit an additional $400,250. He pleaded guilty to the charges on July 2, 2015.