Attorney General Chris Carr today announced this week that Gregory Benoit has pleaded guilty to one count of human trafficking by solicitation.
A Clayton County Superior Court Judge accepted the plea on Aug. 26, 2022, and sentenced the defendant to 15 years, including five years to be served in prison. Benoit will also be listed on the sex offender registry. This is the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit’s first conviction of a buyer and its second conviction to be obtained as part of an ongoing multi-defendant case involving a 15-year-old female victim.
“As we have said since the very beginning – we will not rest until all those who engaged in the trafficking of an underage victim are held responsible for their actions,” said Carr.
“By attacking this investigation from all sides, we have put both a buyer and seller behind bars, and our work doesn’t stop there. While this multi-defendant case is ongoing, we are one step closer to securing maximum justice for the survivor, who has shown incredible strength and bravery throughout this process.”
Since July 25, 2022, the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit has secured three guilty pleas, two 25-year sentences and one 15-year sentence.
Upon creation of the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit in 2019, Chief Investigator Bryan Kimbell re-opened a case that had previously been closed by local jurisdictions and continued the investigation.
This re-opened case involves the sexual exploitation of a 15-year-old female victim. During a forensic interview in 2019, the victim disclosed that she was sold for sex by Theodore Browne, Jr. and Christopher Weldon over a period of several months in 2018.
Throughout the course of the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit’s investigation, evidence further showed that the victim was sexually trafficked out of two hotels in Clayton County, where Browne and Weldon rented rooms and arranged for buyers to purchase the underage victim for sex. This investigation resulted in the arrest and indictment of both Browne and Weldon in September 2021.
Following this indictment, the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit continued to investigate in an effort to identify anyone who purchased the victim for sex. Benoit was subsequently arrested on July 3, 2022, in Brookhaven, Georgia. In addition to Benoit, the investigation also led to the recent arrest of Daniel Horne for solicitation, statutory rape and aggravated child molestation.
This marks the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit’s second conviction in the multi-defendant case. On July 25, 2022, Weldon pleaded guilty to one count each of human trafficking and statutory rape. He was sentenced to 25 years, including 15 years to be served in prison.
A summary of the charges against Benoit is included below:
- Did knowingly solicit a person under the age of 18 years, for the purpose of sexual servitude; charged with one count of Trafficking Persons for Sexual Servitude, O.C.G.A. § 16-5-46(c).
The case occurred in 2018, at which time this Human Trafficking charge carried a maximum sentence of 20 years. Pursuant to subsequent legislation, cases which occurred after July 1, 2019, will now be subject to a maximum punishment of life in prison.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Kaitlyn (Fain) Salinas of the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.
About the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit
In 2019, with the help of Governor Brian Kemp, Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp and leaders in the Georgia General Assembly, Attorney General Chris Carr created the first-of-its-kind statewide Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.
In 2021, the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit initiated 25 cases, arrested nine individuals, investigated and prosecuted 51 defendants, and rescued and assisted 107 victims.
During the 2022 legislative session, Carr secured additional resources to expand the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit and rescue even more victims.