The following is from the U.S. Department of Justice:
Stephen Ardrey, 30, of Springfield, Mo., was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Providence today to 14 years in federal prison for transporting a 17-year old female from the Boston area into Rhode Island with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, announced United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha; Bart J. Cahill, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations for New England; West Greenwich, R.I., Police Chief Richard N. Ramsay; Coventry, R.I., Police Chief Bryan J. Volpe; Warwick, R.I., Police Chief Colonel Stephen M. McCartney; and Medfield, Mass., Police Chief Robert E. Meaney, Jr.
At sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., also ordered that Ardrey serve a term of 10 years supervised release upon completion of his incarceration and that he register as a sex offender. Ardrey pleaded guilty on February 26, 2014, to one count each of trafficking a person under the age of 18 and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.
Ardrey was arrested on September 12, 2013, while walking with the victim along a Coventry, R.I., highway three days after the victim was reported missing from her Medfield, Mass., home.
United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha commented, “The message from today’s sentencing is simple: if you engage in human trafficking, if you engage in sex trafficking in this state, we are going to get our victim to a safe place and then we are going to come after you with all of our resources. Whether in federal court or state court, we will seek to lock you up for a long period of time.”
“The defendant sexually exploited a vulnerable minor for profit and for his own gratification,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Bart J. Cahill of HSI Boston. “The reprehensible and degrading nature of these crimes should leave no doubt that he has earned every minute in prison he has received. This sentence should also send a message to those who traffic in human beings – that ICE and its federal and local law enforcement partners are committed to protecting those who cannot protect themselves”
At the time of his guilty plea, Ardrey admitted to the court that he met the victim in an online chat room in December 2012. Over time, communications with the victim online, via email and through an online service called “TextNow” intensified in frequency and became sexually explicit. As the communications continued, Ardrey discussed selling the victim in order to make money so they could “go away” together.
According to information presented to the court, on September 9, 2013, during a pre-arranged meeting, Ardrey met the victim at a public library in Medfield, Mass. Ardrey and the victim traveled by train from Boston to Providence and then by taxi to a West Greenwich, R.I., motel. The next day Ardrey posted an advertisement on backpage.com and other websites that displayed provocative photographs of the victim under a banner that read “Sweet girl next door -19.”
At the time of his guilty plea, Ardrey admitted to having had sexual contact with the victim at the motel in West Greenwich. Ardrey also admitted that he negotiated a price of $40 and two packages of cigarettes for an hour with the victim with an individual who responded to the Internet ad. That person visited with the victim on two occasions. During the second encounter, Ardrey admitted to remaining outside the door until the individual left, at which time he collected the payment from the victim.
On September 13, 2013, at about 6:30 a.m., the Coventry Police Department received a call from a local resident who observed a male and a female walking along Rte.3 in Coventry and the female fit the description of the reported missing girl from Medfield, Mass. A responding officer recognized the young woman as being the missing person from Medfield, Mass. According to information presented to the court, Ardrey provided the officer a Missouri identification card. The victim, who was not carrying any identification, initially identified herself as “Rose,” the same name used in the backpage.com advertisement. Ardrey admitted to the officer that the victim was the same girl whose picture had been shown on television and who had been reported missing.
Coventry Police Chief Bryan J. Volpe commented, “This case clearly indicates that this type of crime can affect any community at any time. If not for the quick thinking and response of one of our residents, the victim’s situation could have been much worse. The Coventry Police applaud the cooperative effort by all law enforcement agencies in this case and we are pleased with the sentence.”
West Greenwich Police Chief Richard Ramsay added, “The West Greenwich Police Department is very proud to have worked so well within this multi-agency investigation that helped to reunite a 17-year-old female with her family and to put a predator like Steven Ardrey behind bars in federal prison, where he belongs.”
Warwick Police Chief Colonel Stephen M. McCartney said, “The Warwick Police have always strongly supported multi-agency investigations. This is doubly so in such egregious cases as human trafficking of any sort. We are proud that our member of the task force was able to assist in bringing this predator to justice, as demonstrated in the sentence issued in this case. We will continue to support all efforts to protect the public from those who prey on the young or helpless."
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adi Goldstein.
The matter was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations; West Greenwich, Coventry and Warwick, R.I., Police Departments; and the Medfield, Mass., Police Department, with the assistance of the Massachusetts State Police and the Boston Police Department.