A Columbia, South Carolina woman known as “Lady Tank” who pleaded guilty to child sex trafficking charges was sentenced to prison this week, according to Acting U.S. Attorney M. Rhett DeHart.
India Tykeyah-Najee Cuyler, 26, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sex traffic minors and benefiting from sex trafficking of minors. She was sentenced 15 years in prison.
At sentencing, Cuyler also received an obstruction of justice enhancement for making phone calls while in jail in attempt to retaliate against the victims in this case.
Cuyler co-conspired with Donnell “Tank” Salethian Woodard to sex traffick minors. Woodard was sentenced last month to 25 years in prison.
In November 2017, undercover Lexington Police Department officers found a minor online who was advertising sex, according to evidence presented in court. Officers arranged a time to meet up with the teenager at a local motel.
At the motel, officers watched Woodard and “Lady Tank” drop off a 16-year-old runaway , according to evidence at court.
Officers arrested both Woodard and Cuyler on scene at the motel.
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After the arrests, officers found another minor at a different motel who was also involved in the illegal sex operation, according to the news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Police discovered Woodard and Cuyler were posting ads online via Craigslist and Backpage.com to sell minors for sex and taking a portion of the proceeds, according court documents.
Backpage.com was the primary source for online child sex trafficking before federal authorities seized control of the website in 2018.
In court this week, U.S. District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs ordered Cuyler to pay restitution to the victims.
After Cuyler serves her 188-month sentence, she will be on supervised release for 15 years and has to register as a sex offender.
“The cruelty of sex trafficking is hard to comprehend, and it must be punished severely,” DeHart said. “This sentence closes the door on the horrific crimes committed by these defendants and demonstrates our commitment to stopping sex trafficking in South Carolina.”
The FBI, Lexington Police Department, and the West Columbia Police Department investigated the case.
Assistant United States Attorney Stacey D. Haynes prosecuted the case, which is a a part of Project Safe Neighborhood, an initiative that targets those who exploit and abuse children on the internet.
In recent years, law enforcement officials have targeted more human trafficking crimes.
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In 2020, there were 139 reported cases of human trafficking in South Carolina.
“Human trafficking is a horrible blight on this state,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said earlier this year. “Every year, we are becoming better at identifying and dealing with this heinous crime…With your help, we will bring more and more human traffickers to justice.”
To report a human trafficking case, call 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733 (BeFree).
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