WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A Harnett County woman will spend at least eight years in prison for her role in trafficking and prostituting a 17-year-old victim, according to the New Hanover County District Attorney’s Office.
Ashanti Welton McLean, 28, on Monday entered guilty pleas in New Hanover County Superior Court to two counts of trafficking a child victim and four counts of promoting the prostitution of a child victim.
Prosecutors said McLean along with co-defendant Marvarlus Cortel Snead, 33, of Johnston County groomed the teenage victim to trust Snead and eventually took her from her uncle’s home in Benson, N.C. in order to prostitute her. Prosecutors said the pair knew the teen was homeless and hungry.
McLean then posted images of the victim in online advertisements to attract customers to pay for sex. The pair was arrested in Jan. 2018 following an investigation by the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI.
“The children who are victimized in human trafficking and promotion of prostitution crimes are most often kids who have not been protected or provided for sufficiently for most of their lives,” said Assistant District Attorney Connie Jordan. “There are no family members looking for these kids. No one is reporting them missing. There’s no one coming to court in support of these children.”
District Attorney Ben David added that his office “will continue to be a strong voice for victims and hold those who would exploit them fully accountable under the law.”
McLean will spend 8 to 14.6 years in prison for the crimes and will be required to register as a sex offender for 30 years once released from prison.
Prosecutors said McLean agreed to testify in court against Snead whose case is still pending. His next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 24, 2020.
“My child is loving, my child is respectful, he loves his family. He’s got a close, close relationship with my mother. He’s always caring, even now, since he’s been incarcerated," said Tammy McLean-Watson, the mother of Ashanti. "He’s always helping somebody, he’s always doing for somebody. And that’s just his nature, he doesn’t have ill-will in his body, he’s always willing to help somebody. He’s definitely not a threat to society. He’s just a loving and caring person, always has been.”
McLean-Watson faults Ashanti for “hanging around with the wrong people.”
"He knew better. I didn’t raise him like that. But, you know, us as mothers can only do so much once our child goes out there. But it still didn’t turn him, he’s still a loving a respectable child, he always has been,” she added.
Editor’s note: Ashanti McLean identifies as a transgender female.