A jury on Wednesday found that Terrance Edwards, accused of trafficking women and girls in Montana, is a pimp who forced his victims to sell their bodies for his own gain.
Edwards, 35 years old, was found guilty in U.S. District Court of all charges against him related to prostitution.
The guilty verdicts against Edwards were on three counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion; three counts of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in prostitution; one count of obstruction of a sex trafficking investigation; one count of transportation of a person with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity; one count of distribution of marijuana to person under 21 years of age; and one count of tampering with a witness, victim, or informant.
Edwards’ co-defendant, Francine Joann Granados, was also found guilty of tampering with a witness.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, in March of 2016, shortly after he was released from prison on prostitution charges, Edwards began forcing his first victim in this case to engage in commercial sex in Missoula. Edwards physically and emotionally abused her, and threatened her life and the lives of her family members. Edwards took all of the money from the commercial sex encounters. As time progressed, Edwards added other women, as many as five. He followed the same pattern of grooming and abuse each time. Some of the abuse was well-documented, such as when Edwards struck one victim in his car with such force that her blood splattered on the seat belt, which was later identified as the victim’s blood.
Edwards advertised his victims on Backpage.com. They traveled from place to place in Montana and Utah, conducting commercial sex transactions where Edwards received the lion’s share of the money.
In September of 2016, Edwards convinced three minor females from Fargo, North Dakota, ages 15, 16, and 17, to join his group. Edwards drove them to Billings, and on the way, he supplied the underage girls with marijuana. Edwards was arrested in Billings shortly after arriving with the minor girls from North Dakota.
After Edwards was arrested, he and Granados began trying to influence the testimony of the various victims. In recorded jail calls played for the jury, Edwards and Granados discussed how Granados would reach out to the victims in an effort to influence their testimony. Despite warnings from the FBI to have no contact with the victims, Granados persisted. In other recorded jail calls, Edwards reached out to victims himself to influence their testimony.
In response to the verdicts, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme noted that today’s verdicts serve to emphasize comments from the Department of Justice last week, when the Attorney General stated:
“Bringing traffickers like this one to justice is one of the top priorities of the U.S. Department of Justice. We are using every tool at our disposal to eradicate human trafficking. We vigorously investigate and prosecute offenders. We fund training for local law enforcement officers in how to identify trafficking victims. We provide millions of dollars in grants to organizations that assist trafficking victims. And we take every opportunity to raise public awareness of the problem.”
A date for sentencing has not yet been scheduled.