A Dalton man described as the leader of child sex trafficking operation that allegedly facilitated sex parties in Canton has pleaded guilty to federal charges, prosecutors said Friday.

According to a written statement from U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak:

“Brian Hernandez Acosta has pleaded guilty to charges of conducting a child exploitation enterprise, conspiring to engage, and engaging, in sex trafficking minors by force, fraud, or coercion, sex trafficking of children under 18 years old, interstate transport of a minor for prostitution, producing child pornography, and distributing cocaine to a person under 21 years old.

“The defendant produced child pornography and pursued a full range of child exploitation methods,” Pak said. “The scheme in this case is especially egregious because they coerced their child victims into engaging in sexual activity in some instances through the use of alcohol and cocaine. We are hopeful that Hernandez Acosta’s guilty plea will encourage more victims to contact law enforcement.”

Between July 2016 and December 2016, co-defendants Anthony Joseph Lawhon and Brandi Rice Stumpe allegedly hosted sex parties at their home in Canton, where they are accused of engaging in sex acts with minor girls or young women while serving them alcohol and giving them cocaine. Pak said investigators recovered images of some of this conduct on Hernandez Acosta’s cellphone. Lawhon is alleged to have paid Hernandez Acosta thousands of dollars in exchange for commercial sex and cocaine.

“This defendant and his friends preyed upon vulnerable teens, and in a scheme of cruelty and brutality coerced his victims to sell their bodies for his own gratification and profit,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI has zero tolerance for the sex trafficking of children and will continue to work with law enforcement partners to ensure justice is served for the victims.”

Pak said Hernandez Acosta, after pursuing some of the girls on Facebook and Snapchat, posted provocative photographs of them in the adult entertainment and escort sections of Backpage.com, a classified advertisement website seized by the Department of Justice. Hernandez Acosta used these ads to solicit men to engage in sex with the minors for money.

Hernandez Acosta’s guilty plea follows the previous guilty pleas of co-defendants Nilageo Alvarez Acosta and Jaime Adam Riano. The trial of co-defendants Anthony Joseph Lawhon and Brandi Rice Stumpe is currently scheduled for Sept. 16 before U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr.

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