30-year term for leader of sex trafficking ring

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An FBI official says a 30-year prison term for a New Jersey man convicted of sex trafficking in Iowa will protect the public from an “evil predator.”

Johnelle Bell must serve 85 percent of the term, handed down Friday by a federal judge.

A jury convicted the 29-year-old last year of running a nationwide sex trafficking and prostitution ring that advertised on Backpage.com. Prosecutors say Bell lured troubled women to join under false promises and coerced them through physical abuse and threats.

Investigators uncovered the ring after an FBI agent posed as a customer in Omaha. The prosecution took place in Iowa because the ring traveled to Des Moines.

FBI Special Agent Thomas Metz says Monday the agency will continue to pursue “individuals such as Bell who prey on others.”

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