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World Brooklyn man pleads guilty to promoting prostitution of 3 teenagers

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NEW YORK — A Brooklyn man pleaded guilty Wednesday to promoting three teenage girls as prostitutes and will face five to 10 years in prison, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office said.

Prosecutors said the man, Whetsel Wade, 46, would post photos of the girls on Backpage.com, advertising them alongside escorts. He would then set up meetings in hotels or apartments for the girls — ages 13, 15 and 17 — to have sex with men for money. Wade also promoted five women as prostitutes on the website in addition to the minors, the office said.

“This defendant exploited and abused vulnerable young girls who were made to sell their bodies for his profit,” Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney, said in a statement Wednesday. “With today’s guilty plea he is being held responsible for his despicable and unconscionable actions.”

Authorities began investigating Wade in August 2016, after receiving an anonymous tip, according to Helen Peterson, a spokesman for the district attorney.

On Nov. 14, 2016, the police responded to Wade’s home after receiving several 911 calls about a shooting there. Wade was not home when officers arrived — but they found the 17-year-old in the basement. Two days later, they arrested Wade.

In pleading guilty to second-degree promoting prostitution, Wade agreed to a sentence of five to 10 years, which a judge will impose on June 20. After his release from prison, prosecutors said, Wade will have to register as a sex offender.

Previously, Keisia Atkins, 30, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree promoting prostitution in the case. Prosecutors said she had helped promote the youngest victim as a prostitute for several days after she turned 14.

Atkins has been sentenced to a conditional discharge, provided that she lead a law-abiding life for one year, according to her lawyer, Ryan Cleary. The case against a third co-defendant is pending.

In January 2017 Backpage.com claimed to have shut down its adult services listings, after being accused by federal authorities and Congress of enabling prostitution and the sex trafficking of minors. Users of the site had begun to post sex advertisements for underage girls using code words.

Last month, the federal government seized the website, shutting it down entirely.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

SANDRA E. GARCIA © 2018 The New York Times

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