MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WHSV) — A West Virginia man has been convicted on numerous charges for operating a prostitution ring in which heroin was used to maintain control over victims.
Kendall Demarko Wysinger, 42, of Martinsburg, was convicted on January 14 of one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, one count of interstate transportation for prostitution, one count of distribution of fentanyl resulting in death, one count of distribution of fentanyl resulting in serious bodily injury, and one count of evidence tampering.
The convictions came at the end of a 6-day jury trial and bring a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, up to a maximum of a statutory life sentence.
Wysinger's trial took place in Harrisonburg, because his prostitution ring operated in the western part of Virginia.
---THE SEX TRAFFICKING CHARGES---
According to evidence presented at the trial, Wysinger used heroin to coerce at least six victims into engaging in commercial sex in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland.
He routinely advertised the women for commercial sex in online classified ads in Winchester and Shenandoah County. Prosecutors said he also used social media to target and recruit women for his operation.
Once he had his victims, he would employ threats and intimidation to ensure he maintained power and control, demanding they provide him nearly all the money earned from commercial sex in order to pay off their drug debts to him for the heroin he provided. He also 'charged' them for transporting them to their prostitution dates.
---DISTRIBUTING LETHAL DRUGS---
But sex trafficking was just part of Wysinger's criminal activity. According to evidence presented at trial, the heroin he distributed resulted in two overdoses due to the presence of fentanyl, an extremely powerful opioid.
Wysinger told police he gave what he said was heroin to one his sex trafficking victims and her friend. But it was fentanyl, which caused both people to overdose. One of them did not survive.
Following the overdoses, which Wysinger was present during, he destroyed the evidence from the crime scene.
---INVESTIGATION OF THE CASE---
Wysinger was brought down by the FBI's I-81 Human Trafficking Task Force, the DEA, and the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force. His case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Erin M. Kulpa and Rachel Swartz.
“An individual who preyed on vulnerable victims and destroyed numerous lives through opioid distribution and sex trafficking will now spend the better part of his life in federal prison,” U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen stated. “We are extremely grateful for the hard work and persistence of the FBI, the Virginia State Police, and our numerous local law-enforcement partners in bringing him to justice.”
“The I-81 Human Trafficking Task Force continues to work vigorously to identify and bring to trial the perpetrators of these heinous crimes; and partner with victim service providers to ensure victims are able to obtain the necessary care to recover and rebuild their lives,” said FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge, MaryJo Thomas.
The task force is a collaboration of law enforcement and community partners focusing on human trafficking along the I-81 corridor in the northern Shenandoah Valley, West Virginia, and Maryland.
WHSV reached out to the Department of Justice to receive a current mugshot of Kendall Wysinger, but was told the spokesperson responsible for answering media inquiries is currently furloughed due to the partial government shutdown.