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Man charged with leading sex trafficking network on I-81 in Virginia, seven other states

Crystal Graham
sex trafficking
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The FBI’s I-81 human trafficking task force has charged a man with using drug dependency to force at least five adult victims into commercial sex work.

William Oneil Murray III, 35, of Maryland, was indicted Wednesday on three counts of sex trafficking through force, fraud and coercion, one count of transporting individuals for the purpose of prostitution and one count of using a facility of interstate commerce to facilitate prostitution.

The alleged criminal behavior occurred in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, West Virginia, New York, New Jersey and Florida.

“Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, and those who perpetrate it must be held accountable,” said United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh. “Exploiting victims’ drug dependency and addiction is the most common form of human trafficking we are seeing here in Virginia, and I am grateful to the I-81 human trafficking task force and the Virginia State Police for bringing this case to justice and providing some relief to these victims.”

According to court documents, from 2016 through July 2022, Murray engaged in a multi-state sex trafficking operation involving at least five adult female victims.

Murray controlled his victims’ narcotics use, not allowing them to obtain drugs from anyone but himself, therefore taking complete control of each victim’s drug dependency.

In order to further control his victims and force them into commercial sex work, Murray withheld drugs from them, making them “dope sick,” a term one victim described as being like the flu but five times worse, based on withdrawal symptoms from heroin and other opiates.

Victims were not allowed to go anywhere without Murray’s permission and were punished if they did so.

Court documents claim Murray took all of his victims’ cell phones. Murray allowed his victims to use one of his phones to communicate with commercial sex customers but would regularly get print outs of call and text logs to ensure the victims were not texting or calling anyone but customers.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s I-81 human trafficking task force and the Virginia State Police are investigating the case.

The task force is a collaborative effort of law enforcement and community partners focused on identifying instances of human trafficking along the I-81 corridor in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland; prosecuting those responsible; and providing assistance to the victims impacted by these crimes.

The I-81 task force includes law enforcement from the counties of Frederick, Clarke and Shenandoah as well as the cities and towns of Front Royal, Hagerstown, and Frederick, Md., and Lord Fairfax Community College.

If you are a victim of human trafficking or you have information about a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at (888) 373-7888, where resources are available.

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.