Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced Joshua Lankford a/k/a “20-20”, a/k/a “Light Bright”, a/k/a “Yellow”, age 33, of Federalsburg, Maryland, to 17 years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for kidnapping in relation to a sex trafficking conspiracy.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Colonel Woodrow W. Jones III, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police; Chief Michael McDermott of the Federalsburg Police Department; and Colonel Melissa Zebley of the Delaware State Police Department.
“Lankford exploited a young woman’s drug dependency and desire to establish a better life for herself and her child to deprive her of her basic humanity for his own profit. He also attempted to undermine our justice system by conspiring to kill the victim” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, Erek L. Barron. “Let this sentence serve as a light to survivors impacted by human trafficking and as a deterrent to those conspiring to commit heinous human trafficking crimes.”
“This defendant preyed on a vulnerable young woman and cruelly exploited her for his profit,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for Justice Department’s the Civil Rights Division. “Sex trafficking is a heinous crime that has no place in our society. This sentence reflects the defendant’s horrific crime – a crime that deprives some of society’s most vulnerable members of their freedom and dignity. The Civil Rights Division will continue its vigorous enforcement of our human trafficking laws to hold perpetrators accountable and to seek justice for survivors of these heinous crimes.”
“Joshua Lankford’s crimes were nothing short of horrific; he kidnapped and victimized a vulnerable woman then plotted to kill her in order to save himself,” said James R. Mancuso, the Special Agent in Charge of HSI Baltimore. “The atrocities of his crimes are clearly reflected in the severity of his sentence, and today, he will begin to pay his debt to society. HSI Baltimore remains committed to investigating human trafficking organizations as they prey upon the most vulnerable populations in our communities.”
According to his guilty plea, from October 25, 2018, to October 30, 2018, Lankford led and organized a conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion, and to commit kidnapping. Lankford induced Victim 1, who suffered from drug addiction, to travel from Maryland to Delaware to engage in prostitution, and transported Victim 1 across state lines to engage in commercial sex acts.
Knowing of Victim 1’s drug addiction, Lankford lured her into performing commercial sex acts at his direction by falsely promising the victim that he would help her buy a house, make more money, and regain custody of her son. Lankford also told Victim 1 that she would have to give all of the money she made from commercial sex acts to him.
Lankford continued to make false promises to Victim 1 in order to compel her to engage in commercial sex acts for his benefit for approximately two days. Lankford also recruited Lakeya Aldridge, age 41, of Federalsburg, Maryland; Kevonne Murphy, age 31, of Federalsburg, Maryland; and David Goodwin, age 29 of Federalsburg, Maryland to engage in his sex trafficking conspiracy. Specifically, Aldridge helped maintain Victim 1 while Murphy acted as the “muscle”. Lankford informed Victim 1 that these co-conspirators would manage her when he was not physically present.
As stated in the plea agreement, between October 25, 2018, and October 27, 2018, Victim 1 performed commercial sex acts at two motels in Seaford, Delaware. After meeting with clients, Victim 1 was required to give the money she made to Lankford or his co-conspirators.
On October 29, 2018, the co-conspirators drove Victim 1 back to Maryland where she continued to engage in commercial sex acts and provided all funds she was paid to the conspirators. After one commercial sex act, Victim 1 returned to the co-conspirators and gave them the money she had collected. Aldridge and Murphy yelled at Victim 1 for not making enough money. Fearing for her safety, Victim 1 attempted to escape by attempting to jump out of Aldridge’s moving car. Aldridge then removed her belt and put it around Victim 1’s neck to prevent her from escaping. Murphy contacted Lankford and informed him of Victim 1’s escape attempt. Lankford directed the conspirators to pick him up from his residence and stated that he knew where to take Victim 1 to punish her. Lankford instructed the conspirators to drive to railroad tracks in a dark and remote location. There, Lankford and his co-conspirators physically assaulted Victim 1 for her poor earnings and to maintain her compliance. During Victim 1’s entrapment in the conspiracy, Lankford and his co-conspirators repeatedly told Victim 1 that Lankford had recently committed and had been acquitted of murder to keep Victim 1 fearful of her life and compliant to their demands.
After assaulting Victim 1, Lankford and his co-conspirators transported Victim 1 to a motel in which Victim 1 was prohibited from wearing clothes for the remainder of the evening. Victim 1 was also forced to take a cold shower for the purpose of causing her to suffer. Later that night, Lankford and his co-conspirators drafted a sex acts sheet that listed acts that the victim would be required to perform for customers moving forward. The sex acts sheet was later recovered pursuant to a search warrant of the motel room.
As detailed in his plea agreement, on the morning of October 30, 2018, Victim 1 accessed Aldridge’s cell phone and called 911. Upon arrival at the motel room, Murphy opened the door for Delaware State police troopers. Troopers saw Victim 1 standing behind Murphy and Victim 1 began indicating that she was in distress. The three conspirators were then detained. Prior to his arrest, Murphy called Lankford and informed him that Victim 1 was detailing her experience to the police. At that time, Murphy told Lankford to go “underground”. In response, Lankford told Murphy not to worry as he would send Victim 1 a lethal dose of heroin laced with battery acid.
Lankford was arrested two days later and informed officers that he deleted the contents of his cell phone in anticipation of his apprehension. While incarcerated, Lankford told a co-conspirator that he intended to kill Victim 1 to prevent her from testifying against them at trial.
Aldridge pled guilty to conspiracy to commit a kidnapping in 2020. Murphy and Goodwin pled guilty to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking in 2019.
Report suspected instances of human trafficking and sex trafficking to HSI’s tip line at 866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron and Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke commended the HSI Baltimore and Philadelphia offices, the Maryland State Police Department, the Federalsburg Police Department, and the Delaware State Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary W. Setzer and Leah Branch of the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution unit, who are prosecuting the case.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/human-trafficking and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.