On Friday, May 19, 2023, the following press release was issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Western District of Louisiana.
LEXANDRIA, La. – Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, United States Attorney Brandon B. Brown of the Western District of Louisiana, and Special Agent in Charge Douglas A. Williams, Jr. of the FBI New Orleans Field Office, announced that a Louisiana man was sentenced today to 35 years in prison for conspiracy to commit forced labor and transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. The defendant was also ordered to pay restitution of $979,800 to the victims.
Between June 2016 and May 2019, Darnell Fulton, 39, of Pineville, used violence, sexual abuse, withholding of food, degradation, and intimidation to coerce multiple minors to work for his brownie baking business and provide him the profits. The defendant required the victims to travel to as many as 20 to 30 locations a day, such as plazas, car dealerships, law firms, restaurants, and parking lots, to sell brownies. The victims worked late into the night either selling or baking the brownies and sold them during the day. In fact, the victims typically worked seven days a week with very few breaks and had to meet a daily sales quota the defendant set. The defendant regularly assaulted the victims because he was not satisfied with their daily work performance, especially if they did not meet his projected sales daily quota. For example, the defendant frequently required the victims to stay in a push up or plank position for hours, and he often whipped them with a belt if they got out of proper form. The defendant also made the minor victims perform sexual acts with him and transported them across state lines to engage in criminal sexual activity with him.
“Forced labor, especially when it involves sexual abuse of children, violence, and mental and physical anguish, is heinous conduct that has no place in our society today. The defendant mercilessly exploited children for his own financial gain and personal gratification, and we will not tolerate it,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This sentence demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to standing up for the survivors of forced labor schemes. We will not only pursue and prosecute human and child traffickers, but also seek restitution and use those funds to help survivors rebuild and reclaim their lives.”
“The defendant’s actions in this case were deplorable and despicable,” said U.S. Attorney Brandon B. Brown for the Western District of Louisiana. “Forced labor is a form of modern-day slavery and we have a duty to protect the most vulnerable of our society. He had no hesitation in torturing and demoralizing these victims, his own children. We are grateful for this sentence and hope that the victims can begin the healing process. This defendant is a danger to society, has no regard for human life, and we believe it is appropriate that he will be spending a long time in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.”
“Mr. Fulton’s guilty plea and the sentencing today should be of great comfort to the victims of his depravity,” said Special Agent in Charge Douglas A. Williams, Jr. of the FBI New Orleans Field Office. “We thank our partners, the Alexandria Police Department, United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana, and DOJ’s Civil Rights Division for their assistance in this case. We will continue the work of rooting out those who seek to target minors for their own bizarre obsessions.”
The case was investigated by the FBI and Alexandria Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Luke Walker for the Western District of Louisiana and Trial Attorney Maryam Zhuravitsky of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit in Washington, DC.
Anyone who has information about human trafficking should report that information to the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
For more information about human trafficking, please visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org. Information on the Justice Department’s efforts to combat human trafficking can be found at www.justice.gov/humantrafficking.