FAYETTEVILLE — A Fayetteville man pleaded not guilty Monday in Washington County Circuit Court to charges of sex trafficking a minor.
Najja Phillips, 26, of 3259 W. Jewell Road, is charged with four counts of sexually trafficking a minor person and one count of sexual assault, fourth degree. Phillips was given a Jan. 21 court date before Circuit Judge Mark Lindsay.
Phillips faces 10 to 40 years or life in prison on each count if convicted on the sex trafficking charges. The sexual assault charge, if convicted, carries a penalty of up to six years in prison.
Phillips was arrested after FBI agents and local law enforcement officers searched his home June 7.
A probable cause affidavit for Phillips’ arrest cited a girl younger than 16 who was interviewed at the Children’s Safety Center in Springdale and described how Phillips recruited her to work for him as a prostitute.
The girl said she took photos of herself at Phillips’ direction, and she was advertised on a website to make “dates” for her. The girl said Phillips’ phone was used to make the arrangements.
The girl said she met Phillips through other girls who worked as prostitutes for him, and he pressured her into having sex with him and into working as a prostitute.
Police identified eight advertisements on the website for the girl, with one in Fayetteville, one in Bentonville and six in Springfield, Mo., according to the affidavit. Investigators found at least one hotel reservation made by Phillips in Springfield, Mo. The hotel staff provided investigators with a photo of Phillips and the girl in the hotel lobby.
The affidavit also detailed phone conversations in which Phillips asked the girl to prepare an account on the website for another girl and some details of the work she was doing for Phillips. According to the affidavit, investigators identified another seven individuals who were advertised on the website using Phillips’ phone number.