A Boston man was sentenced Thursday to 17 years in federal prison for his role in a sex trafficking case involving two young women from Maine.
Federal prosecutors and investigators issued a news release that describes Rashad Sabree’s actions as “brutal” because he exploited the women’s addiction to opioids.
Sabree, 38, shared apartments with the women in Biddeford and Portland, providing them with just enough heroin to compel them to continue performing sex acts for money, the release said. The court documents do not specify the victims’ ages.
Sabree, whose alias is Jose, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Portland by Judge Jon D. Levy. During the sentencing, Levy also cited the degree of the cruelty in Sabree’s crimes.
Sabree previously pleaded guilty to two counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion. He will serve 17 years in a Florida prison, a placement that will allow him to be within driving distance of his 1-year-old daughter and family members.
The case attracted the attention of acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, and officials in the Department of Homeland Security as well as the FBI.
“Sex trafficking is a horrific crime against the human dignity of the victims, and a strong sentence like this one is deserved,” Whitaker said in a statement. “This case is particularly cruel because in addition to the defendant’s use of violence and threats, he exploited the victims’ opioid addictions to compel them to perform commercial sex acts for his profit.”
According to court documents, Sabree victimized the women between December 2015 and Jan. 5, 2016.
Prosecutors said that Sabree met Victim 1 on an internet dating site in early December. He eventually moved into her apartment in Portland. Sabree left after living in the apartment for about one week, moving to another apartment in Biddeford.
Sabree convinced Victim 1 to allow him and another woman, Victim 2, to move back into her Portland apartment. “The defendant told Victim 1 that Victim 2 was prostituting and making a lot of money,” prosecutors said.
Under his direction, Victim 1 posted commercial sex advertisements for Victim 2 on the internet webpage, Backpage.com. Victim 2 gave her earnings to Sabree, who supplied her with “just enough heroin to keep her from suffering opiate withdrawal symptoms.”
Sabree often “belittled” the women over their drug use, calling them “junkies, stupid and trash,” prosecutors said.
“The defendant threatened to withhold heroin from Victims 1 and 2 if they did not engage in commercial sex, knowing that the victims would begin to go into withdrawal become physically sick and suffer severe pain,” court documents filed by prosecutors said. “The defendant also threatened the use of physical violence to compel the victims to prostitute.”
Sabree was arrested Jan. 5, 2016, while heading south on Interstate 95 to Boston. Both women were in the car with him, and court documents indicate that he intended to put them to work as prostitutes in Boston.
By then both victims had been texting family members and posting Facebook messages in a plea for help. Victim 1 posted this message on Facebook: “This situation. I’m not going to make it. And neither is she. He’s pretty much holding us hostage. More her than me, but he’s dangling our addiction over our heads.”
Police arrested Sabree after a passing motorist called 911 to report that he was screaming at one of the women and that he “just whacked her in the mouth, she’s all blood.”
Halsey Frank, the U.S. Attorney for Maine, praised the motorist for being vigilant and letting authorities know about the attack.
“This case demonstrates the important role that the public can play in helping protect those who are vulnerable,” Frank said in a statement. “We encourage the public to say something if they see something. Here, thankfully, a good citizen did just that.”
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: