A 25-year-old Columbia man has been accused in federal court of sex trafficking a minor.

Kenneth Ronald Jones was arrested on February 23. Prosecutors say FBI agents learned in June that a 17-year-old runaway from Wisconsin was being held against her will and forced into prostitution by Jones. She was located at a residence in Columbia and removed by law enforcement agents. The girl told told investigators that she met Jones in May 2016 at a party in Milwaukee, and agreed to travel with him to Columbia to engage in prostitution, but wanted to stop after two weeks, but Jones insisted she continue. The girl told investigators she was afraid to leave Jones.

Jones was arrested at the Boone County Courthouse when he arrived for an appearance on an unrelated matter.

Kenneth Jones

Press release from the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri

Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a Columbia, Mo., man has been charged in federal court with sex trafficking a minor.

Kenneth Ronald Jones, 25, of Columbia, was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Jefferson City, Mo., on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Jones was arrested today at the Boone County Courthouse (where he appeared on an unrelated matter). Jones, who remains in federal custody, will have his initial appearance in federal court at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017.

According to an affidavit that was filed in support of the federal criminal complaint, FBI agents learned on June 29, 2016, that a 17-year-old runaway from Wisconsin – identified in court documents as “L.V.” – was being held against her will and forced into prostitution by Jones. She was located at a residence in Columbia and removed by law enforcement agents.

L.V. told investigators that she met Jones in May 2016 at a party in Milwaukee, Wis., and agreed to travel with him to Columbia to engage in prostitution. Within a few minutes of arriving at a Columbia residence that was used as a brothel, the affidavit says, a man arrived soliciting prostitution. This man selected L.V. from the approximately five prostitutes present, and paid to have sex with her. L.V. subsequently engaged in prostitution almost every day, averaging two or three clients per day.

Although Jones knew that L.V. was 17 years old, the affidavit says, he told everyone else at the brothel that L.V was 18 years old so she would be allowed to work there. L.V. reported that escort advertisements were purchased on Backpage, a classified advertising website frequently utilized by prostitutes.

Jones became increasingly verbally abusive and cruel, the affidavit says, and pressured L.V. to see more clients. L.V. said she wanted to stop prostituting herself after two weeks and told Jones on multiple occasions she did not want to prostitute anymore because it was sad and degrading. Jones did not care, the affidavit says, and instructed L.V. to keep making money. She feared repercussions from Jones if she attempted to leave him.

L.V. told investigators that Jones had left for Milwaukee the day before law enforcement took her from the Columbia residence. Before he left, the affidavit says, Jones instructed L.V. to send the money she earned prostituting herself to him while he was in Milwaukee. L.V. told investigators that she had planned to flee from the residence the following day. Jones was arrested when he returned from Milwaukee for a Boone County court appearance today on an unrelated matter.

Dickinson cautioned that the charge contained in this complaint is simply an accusation, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charge must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley S. Turner. It was investigated by the FBI.