Wednesday, June 19, 2013
PORTLAND – A Massachusetts woman who prosecutors characterized as a "human trafficker" was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison for promotion of prostitution, and drug and other charges.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer
Tiana Clark, 29, was an entrepreneurial criminal in the crack and sex trades, said Deputy District Attorney Meg Elam. She preyed on sometimes-homeless crack addicts and used threats and violence to compel them to work for her as prostitutes, Elam said.
She said it's not clear how many people worked for Clark as prostitutes, but there were separate groups in Portland and York County.
"This is a horrific form of sex trafficking that's happening in Maine," Elam said after the hearing. "The daughters of Maine and the sons of Maine are victims."
Clark, of Medford, Mass., pleaded guilty in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court to the felonies of aggravated assault, witness tampering and trafficking in cocaine base, and two misdemeanor counts of promotion of prostitution.
Under a plea agreement, Clark received concurrent penalties that amount to a 10-year sentence, with five years suspended, and three years of probation.
Clark, a petite, baby-faced woman, did not speak at length during the hearing but offered brief responses to procedural questions from Justice Thomas Warren.
Law enforcement became suspicious of Clark after Portland police responded to a report of a fight at an apartment building on Ocean Avenue in August 2011. Police recovered about 117 grams of crack, nearly 590 rocks worth more than $29,000.
The apartment's occupants initially told police they had been victims of a robbery, but one later disclosed that she allowed Clark to use her home for drug and prostitution activities in exchange for crack, Elam said during Wednesday's proceeding.
The tenant said Clark had attacked her with a utility knife after accusing her of stealing, the prosecutor said. Clark later stabbed herself in one leg as part of a ruse to fool police.
Also in the apartment was a young woman from rural Maine whom Clark introduced to crack, Elam said. The woman told police she had been working as a prostitute for Clark for weeks. The woman said she gave all the money to Clark and, in return, received crack, food, clothes and a place to stay, according to Elam.
One of the promotion-of-prostitution charges stemmed from an incident at the Sunrise Motel in Saco. Clark was one of three people who were charged with kidnapping after police received a report of a woman being held against her will and forced to work as a prostitute. Those charges were dismissed because authorities could not find witnesses, Elam said.
Donald Hornblower, Clark's court-appointed attorney, said he was unaware of any human trafficking. He said he knew nothing about the use of force against people involved in the case.
"I think the true story of this case is addiction and how it creates problems," he said.
Clark's case involved Elam, who heads a group that prosecutes violent crimes, and Assistant Attorney General Lee-Anne Sutton, who is assigned to the District Attorney's Office to prosecute drug crimes.
The two prosecutors disputed the notion that drug crimes are victimless. Elam noted that addicts will turn to burglary, prostitution and other means to feed their addiction.
"Drug possession is not a victimless crime," Sutton said.
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: