A federal judge Wednesday sentenced a man from Bronx, N.Y., to more than 26 years in federal prison for forcing a drug-addicted Biddeford woman into prostitution by beating her and enticing her with enough drugs to stave off her withdrawal symptoms.

Vincent Graham, 35, pleaded guilty in January to sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; distributing heroin and crack cocaine; and transporting a victim across state lines for the purpose of engaging in prostitution. Graham was indicted in October of 2017 and was arrested the next month for the offenses, which occurred during two periods in 2015.

Prosecutors say Graham met the woman in Biddeford in July 2015. The victim, referred to throughout court documents only as J.R., had been engaging in prostitution to support her addiction to heroin, according to court records.

The first time he met the woman, Graham exchanged some crack cocaine for a sexual favor and also sold J.R. heroin.

Graham then directed J.R. to post advertisements on Backpage.com, a website that was used by sex workers and sex traffickers to find people who wanted to pay for sex, but was shut down by federal agents in 2018. Prosecutors said that had the case gone to trial, they would have presented evidence that Graham coerced the victim to continue to engage in prostitution and used threats and physical force as well as verbal abuse to maintain power over her.

Graham paid for J.R.’s cell phone minutes, which she used to communicate with clients, and in July 2015, Graham took J.R. to Lowell, Massachusetts, to continue engaging in prostitution. He took all of the money she earned and used force and threats to keep control of her, and continued to feed her heroin and crack cocaine, prosecutors said.

When J.R. protested that she could not continue to work with visible injuries that Graham inflicted and doubted men would pay for her services, Graham told her to do it anyway, according to court records.

““They’ll pay for it, trust me, they’ll pay for it because they’ll sympathize,” Graham told her, according to the court records. “They’ll feel sorry for you so they’ll pay more.”

Graham also is alleged to have forced another woman, who is also not identified in the court records, to travel to Massachusetts and New Hampshire to engage in prostitution with J.R.

J.R. left Graham twice, each time with the help of a family member or friend. In December 2015, when she left him for the second time, J.R. went to the emergency room at Southern Maine Medical Center, and told staff there how Graham forced her to sell her body and beat her badly.

“I’d rather die than keep going back to that man,” J.R. told medical staff. “He’s either going to kill me or I am going to kill myself.”

During Graham’s sentencing hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock derided Graham’s conduct as “unimaginable,” and said the need to punish Graham in order to protect the public required no further explanation.

“I don’t know how to express how deplorable I think your conduct was,” Woodcock said, according to a statement released by the office of U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank. “As a man, it’s just unimaginable to me that you would treat a woman this way.”

In addition to the prison term, Graham will be placed on six years of probation following his release. Graham is currently serving a six-year state prison term in New York for a felony drug trafficking conviction, according to New York State’s Department of Corrections.

The case was investigated by the Biddeford Police Department, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, and a bevy of federal agencies including officers from the Department of Homeland Security, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI and Maine’s anti-trafficking coordination team.


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