North Phila. man sentenced for pimping 15-year-old

Posted: July 03, 2014

A North Philadelphia man was sentenced Tuesday to 17 to 34 years in prison for pimping a 15-year-old runaway girl he sheltered.

Robert Spence, 46, was sentenced by Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Robert P. Coleman, who in February found Spence guilty in a nonjury trial of human trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, interfering with custody of children, promoting prostitution of a minor, and corrupting a minor.

Coleman rejected a 30-month prison term requested by defense lawyer Rania Major-Trunfio, saying, "The facts of this case make my blood boil," according to Assistant District Attorney Rochelle Keyhan.

Major-Trunfio could not be reached for comment.

Keyhan said Spence had a history of arrests in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for targeting and trafficking runaway teenage girls into prostitution.

He was arrested in March 2009 and charged with pimping a 15-year-old girl who ran away from home in ninth grade.

Keyhan said the girl ran away in December 2008 while she attended Germantown High School. Another girl she knew at school suggested they stay at the house of one of Spence's friends.

The friend wasn't home, but Spence waited outside in a car and offered the teens a ride to his house. For the next month, Keyhan continued, the 15-year-old and her friend lived in Spence's house in the 1700 block of Widener Place in Ogontz.

Keyhan said Spence coerced the 15-year-old with threats against her life and her family, and forced her and her 16-year-old friend to live there and sleep on crates in a corner of his bedroom, except when he drove them to meet men.

The 15-year-old worked as a prostitute from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. each night, having sex for $150 a trick, money that Spence pocketed, Keyhan said.

The 15-year-old escaped after she managed to call her mother to pick her up and go to police, Keyhan said. The 16-year-old refused to cooperate with police, and no charges resulted from Spence's conduct toward her, Keyhan said.

Spence and his lawyer, Keyhan said, argued that he did not know he was dealing with girls who were under the age of consent.

Keyhan, however, introduced as evidence a letter Spence wrote to a friend from prison urging him to take over his "pimping operation" and follow directions he sent from prison.

Spence's letter told his friend not to "undermine his authority" with his females and acknowledged their true age and how much money he made selling each girl.

Keyhan said the 15-year-old was now back with her mother and sober, although "she still has trouble trusting people."

"This crime is troubling because it operates so far below the radar," Keyhan said. "The victims are runaways, and some become forgotten. Later, when it becomes public, the argument becomes, 'That's the life they chose.' "

215-854-2985 @joeslobo


comments powered by Disqus