COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – Two people are facing charges for alleged child sex trafficking and coercion and enticement of minors in the Myrtle Beach area.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office on Monday identified the suspects as Johnny Thomas, 34, of Durham, N.C., and Becca Mills, 25, of Whispering Pines, N.C.
Authorities said Thomas and Mills posted commercial sex ads for minors, taking the minors to locations in Fayetteville, N.C., and Myrtle Beach where they reportedly engaged in commercial sexual encounters with other individuals.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Mills also participated in many of the sexual encounters, and Thomas engaged in sexual acts with one of the minors on at least two occasions.
Mills allegedly told one of the minors that if she did what she was told, Thomas would not hurt her, court records show.
Thomas also told one of the minors numerous times that if she did not perform commercial sex acts, he would “sell her to someone worse who would chain her up to a bed, shoot her full of heroin, and do bad things to her such as slice off her toes and body parts,” the criminal complaint stated.
Jail records from the Myrtle Beach Police Department show Mills was booked in June 2019 and charged with trafficking persons and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Court records she was indicted on June 16, 2021.
Thomas, jail records show, has been behind bars at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center since March 2019 and charged with trafficking persons, two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and second-degree assault and battery.
Both Thomas and Mills face a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Authorities said the case was originally prosecuted by the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office and will be federally prosecuted as part of a collaborative effort by federal and state partners in the Myrtle Beach area to combat sex trafficking and child exploitation.
“I truly believe that human trafficking, just with those two words, half of them deal with trafficking, or going over state lines,” said 15th Circuit Court Solicitor Jimmy Richardson.
When the child sex trafficking case allegedly involving Thomas and Mills came across Jimmy Richardson’s desk, his first thought was it seemed like more of a federal issue.
He said a common misperception is that by passing it up to federal court, the 15th Circuit isn’t responsible anymore.
In order to still handle cases crossing state lines, the office added three attorneys. They can serve in both a federal and state capacity.
“This isn’t like a race where we pass the baton and it’s off to another agency,” said Richardson. “With Special U.S. Attorneys in house, they would take the file from a state case and then prosecute it in federal court.”
Richardson said that opens up more courtrooms, more prison options and more agencies to include in the court case.
He said trying a case federally is a way for the prosecution to look at the big picture of trafficking cases, rather than focusing on one individual act at one location.
“The only way to do this is to follow it from one place to another and stamp it out as it’s going on,” said Richardson.
While Richardson is trying to keep that big picture in mind, the Coastal Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force is focusing more and more on the individual.
“We’re trying to get to the victims, talk to the victim, see what are their needs, what we can do to help them,” said CCHTT Chair Sherri Smith.
These cases can take years to come together, for example, Thomas and Mills were initially arrested back in 2019.
The Human Trafficking Task Force wants caring for the victims to be at the center the whole time.
“Until we take care of their needs, then they can’t help us with making a better, stronger case. We need those victims to help us make our case,” said Smith.
Smith said a lot of victims don’t trust police because they’re afraid they’ll be sent to jail.
If that’s the case, there’s a human trafficking hotline they can call to get access to resources or share information anonymously at 1-888-373-7888.
CLICK HERE for more resources for combating human trafficking can be found here:
Meanwhile, the case involving Thomas and Mills remains under investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, the Rockingham Police Department, and the Myrtle Beach police.
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