Columbia, South Carolina — Acting United States Attorney M. Rhett DeHart announced today that India Tykeyah-Najee Cuyler, a/k/a “Lady Tank,” 26, of Columbia, was sentenced to more than 15 years in federal prison, after pleading guilty in February 2019 to using a facility of interstate commerce to entice a minor under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity.
Cuyler’s co-defendant, Donnell Salethian Woodard, a/k/a “Tank,” 33, also of Columbia, was sentenced February 24, 2021, to 25 years imprisonment, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to sex traffic minors and benefiting from sex trafficking of minors. Woodard was also ordered to pay restitution to the minor victims, register as a sex offender, and will be on supervision for 15 years following service of the term of imprisonment. There is no parole in the federal system.
“The cruelty of sex trafficking is hard to comprehend, and it must be punished severely,” said Acting U.S. Attorney DeHart. “This sentence closes the door on the horrific crimes committed by these defendants and demonstrates our commitment to stopping sex trafficking in South Carolina.”
“Today’s sentencing, along with the previous sentencing of Donnell Woodard, has brought an end to a local child sex trafficking operation,” said Susan Ferensic, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge. “These hideous crimes are frequently uncovered by local law enforcement. We thank the Lexington Police Department and the West Columbia Police Department for their vigilance and dedication as they worked alongside the FBI to bring these individuals to justice. We ask that if anyone sees any indication that a child is being trafficked, they report such to their local law enforcement agency or the FBI.”
Evidence presented to the court showed that on November 21, 2017, undercover officers with the Lexington Police Department encountered a minor advertising sex via a website. An undercover officer set up a time to meet with the minor at a local motel, wherein officers observed the minor being dropped off by Cuyler and Woodard. Officers learned that the minor was 16 years old and a runaway. When Cuyler and Woodard returned to the local motel to pick the minor up, officers placed them both under arrest. The investigation led to another nearby motel where the second minor, who was also involved in the illegal venture, was located. The investigation further revealed Woodard and Cuyler were using a cell phone to post photographs and advertisements for commercial sex with the minors on a website and taking a portion of the proceeds. The investigation further showed that the minors had sometimes up to ten (10) meetings per day at various hotel rooms rented by Woodard.
At sentencing, Cuyler received an obstruction of justice enhancement for 2017 jail phone calls in which she attempted to have another minor assault the minor victims in retaliation for cooperating with law enforcement. Cuyler also lost her reduction for acceptance of responsibility for pleading guilty after she assaulted another inmate inside the jail, which resulted in a state assault charge.
During the sentencing, United States District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs also ordered Cuyler to make restitution to the victims involved. Following service of her 188-month term of imprisonment, Cuyler will be on supervised release for 15 years and will be required to register as a sex offender.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the Lexington Police Department, and the West Columbia Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Stacey D. Haynes of the Columbia office prosecuted the case.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
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