According to law enforcement, Laderrick Dedemon Smith was trafficking children out of a hotel in Plano in early 2020. The 22-year-old Smith, also known as “Freeway,” would post ads online with photos of his victims, offering them up for sex. To make sure his victims weren’t leaving the hotel, grabbing a bite to eat or seeking medical attention without his say so, Smith installed a tracking device on their cell phones. That didn’t stop Homeland Security Investigations, the Arlington Police Department and the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office from tracking down and rescuing one of his victims in 2020, ultimately leading to the discovery of more victims and Smith’s arrest.
Smith pleaded guilty to sex trafficking children in August and was sentenced late last month to 240 months in federal prison. Smith’s attorney couldn’t be reached for comment.
Through an investigation, law enforcement also found that Smith communicated with prospective buyers, set rates and arranged commercial sex with his victims. According to a Department of Justice press release, Smith “unduly influenced the minor victim to engage in commercial sex through fear of bodily injury.”
Smith will spend 20 years in federal prison and the following 15 years on supervised release, registered as a sex offender.
“Child sex trafficking is one of the most deviant crimes we investigate in our agency,” Christopher Miller, the acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Dallas, said in the press release. “The work of our law enforcement partners of the North Trafficking Task Force has proven to be invaluable in removing these dangerous predators from our communities, while at the same time providing much needed assistance to those victimized by their perpetrators.”
The nonprofit Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative helps families and law enforcement track down trafficked children. The group’s work recently led to the finding of a 15-year-old girl who was abducted at a Dallas Mavericks game in April. She was found the following month in Oklahoma City, where cops arrested eight people who allegedly trafficked her, according to The Daily Beast.
JB Rice, executive director and cofounder of the nonprofit, told the Observer that all traffickers are different.
“What we see and deal with for the most part would be street-level pimps … typically running around the gang life, that kind of thing,” Rice said. “But, there have been cases where teenage, like, high school girls, have trafficked other high school girls, or perhaps junior high girls. So, there’s no mold that a trafficker has to fit in.
“Sometimes it’s generational — their father was a pimp, their father was a drug dealer, and they’re following in their father’s foot steps, perhaps, or their mother’s or their grandfather’s.”
Rice also said trafficking is hidden in plain sight.
“While you might not find it on your particular residential street in your suburban neighborhood, it does happen in the suburbs,” Rice said. Online, it can happen anywhere.
“Those markets are still very visible. It’s not [on the] dark web,” Rice said. “It’s very much on the service web.”
A lack of resources makes it hard to crack down on. Some online operations have servers based outside of the U.S., which can also make enforcement difficult.
He said when the group is working a case, it’s hard to find detectives with the time to assist them.
“I have to find who has that bandwidth and a lot of times it’s difficult,” Rice said. “Our windows of opportunity to re-acquire a child out of that life sometimes are very narrow and if you don’t get a quick response you’re going to miss that window of opportunity.”