FBI busts child porn operation in Saugus

By David Liscio / The Daily Item

SAUGUS – An FBI sting operation involving Saugus and State Police netted three suspects who allegedly took nude photographs of a 14-year-old girl, posted them on a pornographic Web site and later offered her sexual services to a customer at the Holiday Inn Express on Route 1.

The trio was arrested by Saugus police over the weekend as they drove away from the hotel, still unaware that the customer was an undercover FBI agent, Essex Assistant District Attorney Maria Markos said during arraignment proceedings Monday in District Court.

The defendants were identified as Bennie Robinson, 33, 14 Wilbert Road, Dorchester, Zachary Sargent, 27, 21 Mattapan St., Boston and Nicole Hayward, 19, 13 Nelson Drive, Apt. No. 4, Randolph. All were charged with sex crimes, including inducing a minor to engage in prostitution, lasciviously posing and exhibiting a child in the nude and distributing material of a child in the nude. Hayward was also charged with sexual conduct for a fee, as was the juvenile.

Judge Michael Laurenzano ordered the three adult defendants held without bail pending a Nov. 2 dangerousness hearing.

According to courtroom statements and court documents, Hayward, who is also known as Channelle or Maya, has a criminal record that includes a prostitution case pending in Chelsea District Court. Hayward purportedly befriended the girl through conversation and cell phone text messaging. On Oct. 22, Hayward was allegedly waiting for the girl to return home from school.

“When the school bus dropped her off, Maya was waiting at the end of her street and told her she was coming with her. She then got into the car with Maya and the two other men,” Saugus police reported. According to prosecutors, the three suspects took the girl to the President City Inn at 845 Hancock St. in Quincy. Once inside Room 26, cell phones were used to photograph the girl wearing a red thong in a variety of provocative poses atop the flowered bedspread.

Hayward allegedly downloaded the photos to a laptop computer and using her gmail account posted them on a Web site advertising sex for sale.

Under questioning by state troopers and Boston and Saugus police detectives, the girl said Hayward was on the laptop, apparently chatting with a potential customer who requested two girls be sent to his Saugus hotel room. The customer was told two women would arrive from Quincy in about 45 minutes and that the price was $200, the girl told police, adding that Robinson then asked both Sargent and Hayward if they were armed with knives and that both acknowledged they were.

Police reports indicated the two men remained in the 2000 Acura Integra, which was under surveillance, while Hayward and the girl went to the customer’s room.
The two women left with the cash. The surveillance team in the parking lot followed their car until the signal was given for a marked Saugus police cruiser to make the traffic stop. Hayward was carrying the $200 in marked bills, police said.

Meanwhile, Quincy police secured the hotel room where the illicit photo shoot allegedly occurred. FBI agents and other law enforcement officers later seized the laptop computer and the cell phones in that room.

Court-appointed defense lawyer Jeffrey Sweeney, representing Sargent, said the girl was not physically forced to accompany the others to the Quincy hotel or to Saugus. As a result, the crimes alleged were not committed, he said.

Echoing that argument, public defense counsel Kenneth Schutzer asserted in Robinson’s behalf that the girl was not induced to be photographed or take part in any other activities. No evidence exists that Robinson ever spoke to the girl, said Schutzer, contending that his client’s only offense was being present. “There is no probable cause,” he said.

Markos, the prosecutor, adamantly disagreed. “The crime itself is what she is being induced to do,” she said.

Acknowledging that the accusations contained in the girl’s statement are “incredibly serious,” Judge Laurenzano asked whether the district attorney was looking at what might have happened versus what happened.

“What may result is my argument,” said Markos, emphasizing the young girl could easily be led into a life of prostitution where the dangers, including sexually transmitted diseases and violence, can be life threatening.

Hayward was represented by public defense counsel Joseph DiGiovanni, who said his client may be a victim in the case, given her history of mental illness and hospitalization from ages 11 to 16.

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