A married couple were indicted Wednesday on charges they ran a sex-trafficking operation that spanned several years and boroughs in New York City, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. said.
The spouses, Kareem Mitchell, 38, and Sharice Mitchell, 51, of the Bronx, trafficked at least eight women from November 2018 until earlier this month, Bragg said in a statement.
Two of the couple’s eight alleged victims, as young adults, were under the care of Sharice Mitchell, a state-certified foster parent, according to the indictment out of New York State Supreme Court charging them with sex trafficking, fourth-degree conspiracy and third-degree promoting prostitution. Supreme Court is New York state's main trial court.
“Sex traffickers target the most vulnerable New Yorkers, including — far too often — young New Yorkers in the child welfare system,” Bragg said in the statement. “As alleged, instead of providing a safe home, this husband and wife forced eight young women to engage in prostitution. We will continue to prioritize proactive investigations like these to dismantle sex trafficking operations and keep New Yorkers safe.”
Kareem Mitchell is also charged with second-degree aggravated harassment, officials said.
The indictment, which was seen by NBC News, identified the alleged victims as "Individuals." Sharice Mitchell became a foster parent to the first alleged victim in January 2019 and the second alleged victim in January 2020, the indictment said.
He used Instagram and Facebook to recruit women to work for him, then verbally and physically abused victims to coerce them into prostitution, including in cars and hotels in Midtown and elsewhere in Manhattan, as well as Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, prosecutors said.
Kareem Mitchell was also a registered sex offender, officials said, stemming from a 2008 federal conviction for transportation of a minor to engage in prostitution and other charges.
His wife lied on her application to become a foster parent, claiming she did not live with her husband, even though he was registered at the same address, prosecutors said.
A spokesperson with the city’s Administration for Children’s Services, which typically screens potential foster parents, said in a statement Thursday: “We take the safety of the children and youth entrusted to our care in New York City’s foster care system extremely seriously. The vast majority of foster parents provide loving, safe environments. We do not tolerate anyone who exploits or puts children in danger. We are immediately reviewing the allegations made by the Manhattan DA and are fully cooperating in the investigation.”
Attorneys representing the couple were not immediately reached Thursday afternoon.
NBC New York reported that the defendants entered not guilty pleas in court Wednesday.
Kareem Mitchell was remanded Wednesday. Bail for his wife was set at $500,000 cash, $1.5 million insurance company bond and $2 million partially secured surety bond, a spokesperson for Bragg's office said Thursday.