CHICAGO -- A man accused of leading a teenage girl into a life of prostitution less than a month before her murder pleaded guilty Tuesday to sex trafficking charges.
The tragic end of the Desiree Robinson's life has led her mother on a crusade to prevent other children from being caught up in sex trafficking. As a result of her efforts, this is the first criminal conviction associated with the sex trafficking of a 16-year-old who was murdered two years ago.
Details revealed in court left Desiree's mother, Yvonne Ambrose, without words.
"She is deeply saddened, emotionally destroyed to hear that her child was treated as a piece of chattel," said Antonio Romanucci, Ambrose's attorney.
On Tuesday, Charles McFee pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor. In court, federal prosecutors revealed that McFee introduced "Minor A" to Joseph Hazley, who is also charged. Prosecutors say McFee watched Hazley create a Backpage.com profile for "Minor A," and for the introduction, McFee was supposed to get a finders' fee of $250.
"It is beyond shocking and heartbreaking that this child was bought for $250," Romanucci said.
The family of Desiree Robinson says "Minor A" was Robinson. The 16-year-old was found murdered in a Markham garage on Christmas Eve of 2016. An alleged customer, Antonio Rosales, has been charged with her murder.
Robinson's mother was moved to tears in court. The federal case goes after Hazley and McFee for their alleged part in involving a minor in prostitution. Robinson's mother has filed a civil complaint against Backpage.com.
"Clearly we would not be here today if it was not for the ease of access to sexual exploiters, adult predators, who take children off the streets and post them on websites," Romanucci said.
McFee left court Tuesday without commenting. His attorney says McFee - who had been a friend of Robinson - is deeply sorry.
"Nobody wants to pick up a 16-year-old girl and have her killed. This is one of the worst things that you can imagine happening in your life, and he's going to have to live with that," said Christopher Graul, McFee's attorney.
Co-defendant Hazley has a detention hearing Wednesday in federal court. McFee is expected to testify against Hazley in return for a reduced recommended sentence from prosecutors.
No trial date has been set for murder suspect Rosales.