HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston man was sentenced Monday to 40 years in prison for human trafficking minors, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
A federal jury found 25-year-old Romello Lee guilty of using Backpage to advertise a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old. Backpage was a website classified as an advertising site that became the largest marketplace for buying and selling sex before federal law enforcement agencies seized it in April 2018.
The jury also saw several ads Lee posted to social media and text messages between him and one of the girls, detailing his control of the dates she was forced to go on and showed proof of the beatings she took if she didn't meet her nightly quota.
According to one of the girls, they were expected to be branded with a tattoo of his name or rap label, and were threatened if they ever were to escape.
Officials arrested Lee after conducting a sting operation with one of the minors at a hotel in northwest Houston.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner sentenced Lee to serve the 480 months, or 40 years, in federal prison, according to records. Once released from prison, he will remain on supervised release for the rest of his life.
"Too many of our children are falling victims to sex trafficking and predators like Romello Lee," said Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI. "We hope today's sentence sends a strong message to those who continue to exploit our youth, but we also hope it sheds promise to sex trafficking victims waiting to be rescued."
He has also been ordered to register as a sex offender.
SEE RELATED STORY: How to identify a human trafficking victim