NEW: Human-trafficking suspect beat women to instill fear, PBSO says


A 41-year-old Greenacres-area man used shackles, batons, baseball bats and a Taser to instill fear in women under his control, authorities said Thursday.

Alston Williams threatened to kill at least one woman and her family if she either ever called law enforcement or stopped working for him as a prostitute, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in arresting him Wednesday for multiple alleged crimes, including armed human trafficking.

Human trafficking: What is it, and what is being done about it?

He appeared Thursday morning for an initial hearing at the Palm Beach County Jail. Williams has a decades-long criminal history, a state attorney told Judge Dina Keever-Agrama, including multiple prostitution-related convictions.

Keever-Agrama denied Williams bond and ruled that if he ever is released, he cannot access the internet or any other digital devices. He must surrender any passports and be placed on in-house arrest.

Williams is at least the 12th man in Palm Beach County to be charged this year with human trafficking. Human trafficking is described as the use of fraud, force or coercion to exploit another person for sex, labor or domestic servitude.

In January, the county formed a task force, led by State Attorney Dave Aronberg, that has helped bring about several of the arrests. One of the county’s first human trafficking arrests of the year resulted in the recent trial and conviction of a 23-year-old man.

Christopher Thomas faces sentencing in January after a jury convicted him on Nov. 16 of human trafficking, kidnapping, false imprisonment and deriving proceeds from prostitution following an incident in Boynton Beach in February.

Jury finds St. Lucie man guilty of human trafficking

Williams’ arrest came after a woman’s father contacted sheriff’s investigators to report that Williams had raped, abused and forced her into prostitution. The woman later told investigators that Williams not only forced her to sell her body for sex, but he also recently took her to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands and forced her to clear damage caused by Hurricane Irma to his mother’s property.

That trip to St. Thomas was the woman’s breaking point, investigators said, leading her to reach out to authorities.

According to a sheriff’s arrest report, the woman told investigators she first was introduced to Williams about six years ago by a friend from school. Williams told the woman she was pretty and said guys would pay to spend time with her.

He invited her to stay at his Broward County home, where other women also were staying. Williams started having the woman work at an escort service and posted ads for her on the website Backpage, the report said. The woman told investigators she would earn $200 to $300 for sexual encounters, with Williams keeping all of the cash.

If the woman refused to work, Williams would beat her to the point of unconsciousness, authorities said. In some cases, he brought all of the women to the home’s garage and made them watch him assault one of them as an example of what would happen if they disobeyed him, the woman said.

Williams moved to Palm Beach County about two years and had the woman continue to work for him. The woman said she ran away from Williams on two occasions, only to have him track her down and threatened her with his gun, according to the arrest report.

Behind closed doors: Hotels, motels emerge as human-trafficking sites

On Wednesday, a sheriff’s detective spoke to the woman and arranged to meet her at a hotel in downtown West Palm Beach. Williams drove the woman and another woman to to the location, having been led to believe it was for an appointment with a client. He parked a block away and tracked the woman’s movements using the Life360 phone application, the report said.

Deputies took to the woman to a sheriff’s station to be interviewed. The woman justified leaving the hotel by telling Williams that her client needed to use an automated teller machine.

Deputies took Williams into custody after pulling his car over. A second trafficking victim was found in his company, the sheriff’s office said.

Read The Post’s complete coverage of human trafficking in Palm Beach County



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