A Tigard, Oregon man is facing federal charges for sex trafficking by force and laundering proceeds through Necci Hydrate, a bottled water company based in Portland.
Johnell Lee Cleveland, 40, has been charged with sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion; money laundering; and illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.
This is the second time in five months Cleveland has been indicted in federal court. In November 2021, he was indicted for perpetrating insurance and Covid-relief fraud schemes while on federal supervised release.
According to the indictment, beginning in August 2020 and continuing until his arrest in November 2021, Cleveland used force and coercion to cause an adult victim to engage in commercial sex acts. Cleveland used funds generated by the sex trafficking to pay business expenses for Necci Hydrate, including costs for bottling and manufacturing, rental of a corporate office in Portland, merchandising, and a monthly retainer with a modeling agency. These payments were made to conceal and disguise the nature of his sex trafficking proceeds.
If convicted, Cleveland faces a maximum sentence of life in federal prison.
This case was investigated by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the Portland Police Bureau Human Trafficking Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter D. Sax is prosecuting the case.
U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug of the District of Oregon made the announcement.
An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Human trafficking is a serious federal crime where individuals are compelled by force, fraud, or coercion to engage in commercial sex, labor, or domestic servitude against their will. Traffickers exploit and endanger some of the most vulnerable members of our society and cause unimaginable harm. In January 2022, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland launched a new national strategy to combat human trafficking that aims to prevent all forms of trafficking, prosecute trafficking cases, and support trafficking victims and survivors.