BOSTON – A Springfield woman pleaded guilty in federal court in Springfield yesterday to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.
Shannon Yelinek, 36, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking before U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni, who scheduled sentencing for June 4, 2021. Yelinek was charged in August 2019.
Co-conspirator William Coleman previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and nine counts of sex trafficking and was sentenced to 186 months in prison in September 2020.
As stated during court proceedings, Yelinek conspired with Coleman who operated a prostitution business that used violence and the drug addictions of female victims to coerce them into engaging in commercial sex acts with paying customers. The victims were typically required to turn over all of their earnings to Coleman and were subject to his tight control over their daily lives. Most of the women were not allowed to keep any of the money they earned, and they were only to obtain the drugs they needed from Coleman. In most cases, the victims were addicted to heroin.
Victims who did not engage in prostitution for Coleman, or who did not follow his rules, were subjected to physical assaults, sexual violence and the withholding of drugs. Coleman enlisted Yelinek, among others, to carry out tasks associated with the business. Yelinek admitted that she posted prostitution advertisements on the internet and arranged “dates” between prostitution customers and some of Coleman’s victims. She also admitted to picking up money from the victims and delivering it to Coleman and to delivering drugs to the victims at Coleman’s direction. Additionally, Yelinek, at Coleman’s behest, attempted to recruit female inmates while Yelinek was in jail in 2017.
The charge of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking provides for a sentence of up to life in prison, a lifetime of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell; Hampden County District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni; William S. Walker, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; Hampden County Sheriff Nicholas Cocchi; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood; and Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex J. Grant of Mendell’s Springfield Branch Office prosecuted the case.
This case is the result of the efforts of the Western Massachusetts Human Trafficking Working Group, which was established in August 2015 to investigate and prosecute crimes involving commercial sex trafficking.
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