Columbia, South Carolina - United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Donnell Salethian Woodard, a/k/a “Tank,” age 31, of Columbia, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to sex traffic minors and benefiting from sex trafficking of minors.
Evidence presented to the court showed that on November 21, 2017, undercover officers with the Lexington Police Department encountered a minor advertising sex via a website. An undercover officer set up a time to meet with the minor at a local motel, wherein officers observed the minor being dropped off by Woodard and India Tykeyah-Najee Cuyler, a/k/a “Lady Tank,” age 24. Officers placed both Woodard and Cuyler under arrest. The investigation led to another nearby motel where a second minor, who was also involved in the illegal venture, was located. The investigation revealed Woodard and Cuyler were using a cell phone to post advertisements for commercial sex with the minors on a website and taking a portion of the proceeds. Woodard and Cuyler were both charged federally.
Woodard faces of mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison with a maximum of life, a fine of $250,000, a trafficking fund special assessment of $5,000, mandatory registration as a sex offender, and at least 5 years and up to a lifetime of supervised release. Cuyler previously pleaded guilty in federal court to using a facility of interstate commerce (a cell phone) to entice a minor under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity and is awaiting sentencing. Cuyler faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison with a maximum of life, a fine of $250,000, a trafficking fund special assessment of $5,000, mandatory registration as a sex offender, and at least 5 years and up to a lifetime of supervised release. United States District Judge J. Michelle Childs of Columbia accepted the guilty pleas and will sentence both Woodard and Cuyler after receiving and reviewing sentencing reports prepared by the United States Probation Office.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Lexington Police Department, and the West Columbia Police Department. It was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
Assistant United States Attorney Stacey D. Haynes of the Columbia office is prosecuting the case.