Central Florida attorney accused of trafficking teen girls from his Melbourne home
Prosecutors: Victims were told them needed to pay off legal fees, rent
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A Central Florida attorney is accused of forcing teen girls into prostitution by telling them they needed to pay off their legal fees and rent for staying at his home, according to the Florida Attorney General’s Office.
Officials said John Gillespie, 71, operated the human trafficking ring out of his Melbourne home and victimized girls as young as 15.
Gillespie was recently arrested when he traveled from Brevard County to an Orange County hotel room with the intent to pay a 16-year-old girl $100 to have sex with him and then try to recruit the victim to live at his home, a news release said. When the arrest was made Saturday, records show an undercover officer was posing as a teenage girl.
Authorities said Gillespie would post ads showcasing the victims, some of whom lived at his home, on an escort website called SkipTheGames.com. He forced them to stay involved in the trafficking ring by telling them they owed him legal fees or rent for living at his home and by providing them with drugs before or after they met with the men through the ads, records show.
"This behavior from a well-known and experienced attorney is repulsive. Attorneys swear an oath to maintain respect and to abstain from all offensive personality. These alleged actions insult all attorneys who have a passion to protect the defenseless or oppressed,“ Attorney General Ashley Moody wrote in a news release. "His website states 'Never been a prosecutor, always on the right side of the innocent’—yet, he has been abusing innocent girls and I look forward to him meeting a real and ethical prosecutor from my Office of Statewide Prosecution in court very soon.”
Agents from the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation said they estimate based on witness testimony that Gillespie could have been committing these types of crimes for the past 20 years.
Gillespie is facing charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, unlawful use of a two-way communication device and human trafficking of a minor.
Officials said a co-conspirator, Mark Featherman, has been arrested on charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering and unlawful use of a two-way communication device. His connection to the alleged crimes was not immediately released.
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