Raleigh man promised love and money. Feds say it was human trafficking.

A Raleigh man accused of forcing women and children into prostitution was convicted of sex trafficking last week in federal court, following a four-day trial.

Brandon Marquis Jennings, 29, was convicted of running a trafficking ring from 2013 to 2016. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a jury found Jennings guilty of several charges, including four counts of sex trafficking, transporting or coercing victims across state lines for prostitution, and one count of producing child pornography.

Jennings recruited his victims “with promises of love and money,” but he would manipulate, threaten or assault them when they didn’t do what he wanted, according to a press release from the DOJ.

He took all the money paid to his victims, the release said.

The original indictment in the case indicates Jennings knew at least one of his victims was a minor.

The News & Observer contacted the Raleigh Police Department on Monday, but a spokeswoman was unable to provide additional information by deadline Tuesday evening.

The Human Trafficking Institute released a report on Tuesday that said 10 people were convicted of human trafficking in North Carolina in 2018, putting the state 10th in the nation for human-trafficking convictions.

There were 14 active human-trafficking cases in North Carolina in 2018, putting the state 16th in the country for cases in federal courts, the nonprofit reported. Only three new human-trafficking cases were opened in 2018, ranking North Carolina 19th in the nation.

The Polaris Project, a nonprofit that researches and educates stakeholders on human trafficking, reported 297 calls to its National Human Trafficking Hotline from North Carolina in 2018.

To report a case of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or text the hotline at 233733.

Competent for trial

According to court documents, Jennings, who identifies as a “Moorish non-citizen national,” refused to cooperate with an evaluation, but a forensic psychiatrist found him competent to stand trial in January.

Jennings also tried to waive his right to an attorney, but his request was denied after he refused to communicate during a hearing to ensure he understood the consequences of representing himself.

Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 9, and Jennings could get anywhere from 15 years to life in prison, a fine as high as $3.25 million and supervised release for life.

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Shelbi Polk reports on K-12 education in Durham and Orange Counties for the News & Observer. She attended Texas A&M University and followed the crowds to Raleigh in 2018.