OGDEN — An Ogden man accused of pimping two high school girls in a commercial sex operation pleaded guilty Wednesday to human trafficking.
Quinlen Nathaniel Atkinson, 25, pleaded guilty to the second-degree felony and was immediately sentenced to one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison. By pleading guilty, Atkinson avoids going to trial, which was scheduled to begin next month.
Atkinson was originally charged with human trafficking of a child and aggravated exploitation of a child prostitute, both first-degree felonies; engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony; and exploiting a prostitute, a third-degree felony.
Between December 2015 and April 2016, prosecutors say Atkinson had two girls, ages 17 and 18, engage in prostitution from Pocatello, Idaho, to Las Vegas. Their home base of operation was in Ogden, according to charging documents.
Atkinson initially lured both girls by "posing as a romantic interest and mentor for them, making them believe he would be their boyfriend and wanted to help them," said Dan Burton, spokesman for the Utah Attorney General's Office.
The group worked mainly along the I-15 corridor, according to the attorney general's office. Between March and April 2016, investigators monitored the movements of the teen girls and observed them making several trips to Idaho, the charges state.
"These trips coincided with advertisements for sexual services posted on the web forum in the Idaho section that included photographs of both females in revealing clothing," according to court documents.
Investigators eventually interviewed the 18-year-old, who told them she and the 17-year-old were recruited by Atkinson during a trip to Las Vegas in 2015.
"Both of them were paid by men in exchange for sexual acts, and they gave all of the money from this work to (Atkinson)," charges state.
"The 18-year-old confirmed that (Atkinson) substantially managed this commercial sex operation. (He) told them where to go and what to do to make the most money, and he told them to give all of the money to him," according to the charges.
Atkinson also told the teens "he could triple their money through a drug distribution scheme," and that he would "buy them all a house where they could live," charges state.
The 18-year-old told police she made an estimated $9,000 while prostituting, but Atkinson kept all of her money, according to court documents.
“Exploiting and abusing young people in this way is one of the most repulsive acts imaginable,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a prepared statement. "I also want to invite the community’s prayers on behalf of the victims and their families for a recovery that will help them reclaim their lives and their innocence."