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Saturday, January 18, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Spokane felon pleads guilty to human trafficking-for-sex charges

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 6, 2019

A Spokane felon, Seth Randles, 36, pleaded guilty Thursday to charges related to human trafficking for sex charges. He appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Bastian at the Thomas S. Foley United States Courthouse, shown here in May. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
A Spokane felon, Seth Randles, 36, pleaded guilty Thursday to charges related to human trafficking for sex charges. He appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Bastian at the Thomas S. Foley United States Courthouse, shown here in May. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

A Spokane felon, who earlier was charged in connection to a human trafficking investigation, pleaded guilty Thursday to related charges that could result in a sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

Seth Randles, 36, was charged in 2017 with sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion. But he agreed to plead guilty Thursday to related charges: two counts of enticement to travel to engage in human trafficking.

Under the plea agreement, Randles faces between 11 and 20 years in prison at his sentencing, which U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Bastian scheduled for 10:45 a.m. April 23.

Randles previously pleaded guilty in 2003 to first-degree robbery and burglary in a case where a woman reported being pistol-whipped during a theft of marijuana and money. In court Thursday, he acknowledged that he drove a woman, identified as “Victim A,” to Wenatchee in 2009 and then charged a client to have sex with her before keeping some of the money.

Randles also said he drove a woman, identified as “Victim M,” from his home in Spokane to Boise to do the same thing in 2013. “I took part of the money from her,” he said in court with his attorney, federal defender Amy Rubin. “I understand that each of these acts constitutes human trafficking.”

According to court records, FBI agent Ian Burns began an investigation earlier this month after a woman came forward and said she had been a victim for the past two years of sex trafficking by Randles. She also gave the agent a name of a woman who was victimized by Randles for four years, starting in 2009 when that victim was still a juvenile.

The woman told investigators that Randles used a two-story townhouse at 428 E. Dalke Ave. in Spokane “as a base of operation where he would sexually traffic women,” the agent wrote.

The victim said Randles would take photographs of her and two other victims and post them on the website Backpage.com.

“The victim reported that she performed sex acts at the residence for money, which was then collected by Randles,” Burns wrote. “The victim reported that Randles would violently attack her if she did not comply.”

A second victim told Burns earlier this month that she became romantically involved with Randles in 2013. The suspect later asked her to perform sex acts for money, and she reluctantly agreed.

As part of the ploy, Randles would make the second victim memorize lines to tell prospective clients. She “was violently attacked when she failed to properly recite the lines over the phone with the clients,” Burns wrote. The woman “was not allowed to write down the lines because Randles told her it could become ‘evidence.’ ”

Randles taught the victim how to screen clients to make sure they were not law enforcement and bought her a telephone with a Florida area code to match her cover story.

Interviews with the second victim helped investigators identify a potential third victim who was 19 at the time, Burns wrote. While the third victim is mentioned in the new charging documents, she was not part of the guilty plea on Thursday.

According to charging documents related to the current case, Randles “frequently supervised his victims’ commercial sex acts, which normally occurred on the first floor of his residence,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney David Herzog.

Randles also kept a handwritten customer list. He noted “Con” next to those customers who were confirmed, “NG” meant “no-go” and “atty” meant “attorney.”

“A telephone that law enforcement seized from a victim who is not identified in this case, contained many of the same names and numbers and it was coded in the same way as the client list,” Herzog wrote in court records.

The court records do not identify any of the customers from Randles’ ledger.

When Randles was arrested, he had $4,300 in his pocket and $150 in his wallet. Randles “acknowledges that the money was proceeds of sex acts, and that from roughly 2009 onward, pimping women to engage in commercial sex acts was his sole source of income,” records state.

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