The Boston Globe

Lynn man charged with 3 counts of traffickin­g women

- By Travis Andersen GLOBE STAFF

A Lynn man is facing federal human traffickin­g charges for allegedly forcing women who had lost jobs and homes during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to perform commercial sex acts and give him all the proceeds, repeatedly using violence and intimidati­on to keep victims under his control, according to prosecutor­s and legal filings.

Anthony Coleman, 34, was arrested Friday on three counts of sex traffickin­g by force, fraud, or coercion, and one count of transporti­ng a person for purposes of prostituti­on, according to a statement from Acting US Attorney Joshua S. Levy’s office.

A lawyer for Coleman, whose initial appearance in federal court in Boston was slated for Monday, didn’t immediatel­y respond to a request for comment.

An indictment handed up by a grand jury last week said Coleman allegedly trafficked three women between March and August of 2020 when millions of people had lost jobs due to COVID-19 lockdowns aimed at containing the spread of the virus before the introducti­on of vaccines.

Prosecutor­s said Coleman also “coerced and forced his victims” to have sex with him.

“The indictment alleges that Mr. Coleman chose to prey on women who were struggling with employment and housing when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020,” Levy said in the statement. “He allegedly forced these women to sell their bodies, took their money, and violently assaulted them to make sure they obeyed his commands.”

Victim 1, the filing said, had worked as a dancer before the pandemic at a Rhode Island club that Coleman patronized. He offered to drive her to and from work so she didn’t have to ride the bus, and she would “pay him for gas,” the indictment said.

He soon told her they could make more money “as a team,” the indictment said, and he pressured her to sell sex when her employer shut down in March 2020 due to the pandemic.

She moved in with Coleman, who was then living in Lawrence, and engaged in commercial sex acts in Massachuse­tts, Rhode Island, New Hamp

shire, and Florida, with Coleman collecting all the money, the filing said.

Coleman physically and verbally abused her and once held her underwater and threatened to drown her, while on another occasion he forced her to walk outside on broken glass as “punishment” after she “disobeyed him,” the indictment said.

He also allegedly confiscate­d her belongings when she threatened to leave, once threw a phone at her face, causing injury to her eye, and sometimes gave her Adderall to allow her to “stay awake” during commercial sexual encounters, according to the filing.

She escaped in August 2020, the indictment said, and Coleman allegedly broke into her home and assaulted her.

Victim 2, the filing said, met Coleman on social media, and in the spring of 2020 she was kicked out of her residence by a family member who had clashed with her over “disagreeme­nts” related to pandemic safety practices. Coleman invited her to move in with him.

When she tried to leave because she no longer wanted to engage in commercial sex, Coleman allegedly threatened to tell her mother what she’d done and also threatened to hurt her mother and a sibling, so she remained with him for a time, according to the indictment.

The woman escaped in May 2020, and Coleman contacted her online, allegedly threatenin­g to hurt both her mother and best friend, the indictment said.

The filing said Victim 3 met Coleman in the summer of 2020 on social media when she was without shelter in the Boston area.

After a few days of sending messages back and forth, he picked her up and allegedly drove her and Victim 1 to a Tewksbury hotel for sex work.

Initially, the indictment said, Coleman allowed Victim 3 to choose her own customers and split the earnings with him. But after a few days he chose the customers and required her to give all the cash to him, the indictment said.

When she did something Coleman disapprove­d of, or if she said she was too fatigued to engage in commercial sex, he would “physically and verbally assault her,” once striking her face with an open hand, the indictment said.

On another occasion, the filing continued, a customer complained to him about Victim 3, so he assaulted her, the filing said.

Victim 3, who had been with Coleman for about a month, left him days after an alleged choking incident, the indictment said.

“Human traffickin­g is abhorrent whenever it occurs and it is typically the product of exploiting a victim’s vulnerabil­ity, in this case the onset of a pandemic,” Levy said Monday. “Mr. Coleman now faces real consequenc­es for his alleged conduct and his victims will finally be free of his torment.”

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