Crime

Trial scheduled for man accused of sex trafficking Keys Children's Center girls

The trial of a Key Largo man accused in a sex trafficking case involving two local children’s shelter teens is scheduled for the fall in federal court.

Ricky Jermaine Atkins faces life in prison for allegedly convincing the then-Florida Keys Children’s Shelter residents to become prostitutes last summer. Federal prosecutors say Atkins, 28, drove the girls, then 15 and 16 years old, to a Motel 6 in Cutler Bay, where his reported business partner Sandra Simon, was waiting to put them to work.

Simon, 23, has since rolled over on Atkins and agreed to testify against him in open court.

Atkins’ trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 19 at 9:30 a.m. in the federal courthouse in downtown Miami.

Atkins’ lawyer, Alexander Michaels, requested a psychological evaluation in July for his client to determine if he is fit for trial. It’s not clear what the results were, but a federal judge scheduled Atkins for trial on Aug. 5. Michaels did not return messages seeking comment. Atkins pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors and two counts of sex trafficking of minors.

Simon was facing identical charges. In exchange for her testimony, she agreed to plead guilty to one trafficking count on April 29, and federal prosecutors dropped the other two charges. She must serve a minimum of 10 years in prison, be on supervised release for at least five years following that and pay fines up to $250,000, according to court documents.

U.S. District Court Judge Marcia G. Cooke agreed to postpone Simon’s sentencing until after Atkins’ trial.

In the plea agreement Simon signed, she admitted to being a prostitute and to taking photos of the Children's Shelter girls "in provocative poses" and posting the images on a website that advertised prostitution. The ad Simon posted on the site directed clients to call her cell phone "to arrange the prostitution dates."

The girls were prostituted several times, according to Simon's signed statement, and Atkins returned to the Motel 6 "on multiple occasions" to collect money Simon charged the clients.

Simon and the girls spent several days at the Motel 6 before management asked them to leave. Simon then took the girls to "various" hotels in Homestead and Coral Gables, all of which "serve customers traveling in interstate and foreign commerce."

Simon and the girls eventually parted ways. Simon told investigators that the girls left with a man and woman Simon was hanging out with at one of the hotels on Aug. 20, 2014.

On Aug. 24, 2014, the girls were found in Sarasota County in the backseat of a car driven by a stripper from Homestead, who, with a male passenger, was being investigated for a road-rage incident.

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