- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for Dorchester Man Pleads Guilty to Running a Human Trafficking Operation in Greater Boston
Boston — A Dorchester man pleaded guilty today and will be sentenced later this month in connection with running a human trafficking operation in Greater Boston, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
Michael Leoney (a.k.a. Pure), 53, pleaded guilty in Suffolk Superior Court to the charges of Trafficking of Persons for Sexual Servitude (one count), Conspiracy to Traffic Persons for Sexual Servitude (one count) and Deriving Support from Prostitution (three counts). He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 29, 2016.
“This defendant exploited women by recruiting them, transporting them and coercing them to engage in commercial sex for his own personal profit,” said AG Healey. “Our office is committed to ending the exploitation of people and will continue to aggressively prosecute and investigate those who engage in the egregious crime of human trafficking.”
“Today’s outcome sends a very clear message of our commitment to be relentless in the pursuit and prosecution of individuals who prey on others for financial gain,” said Boston Police Commissioner William Evans. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring these types of criminals to justice.”
Michael Leoney was indicted by a Suffolk County Grand Jury in March 2013. His brother Shaun Leoney pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in state prison in connection with running a human trafficking operation in November 2015.
The AG’s Office began an investigation in 2012 after the matter was referred by the Boston Police Department Human Trafficking Unit. The joint investigation determined that Michael Leoney ran a human trafficking operation in Greater Boston, coerced women into prostitution, advertised the women on websites alleged to advertise prostitution and managed the financial aspects of the operation.
Further investigation revealed that Shaun Leoney was involved in this human trafficking operation. Authorities alleged the brothers profited from their own individual schemes, but their operations overlapped considerably.
According to investigators, Michael Leoney typically trafficked and sold Caucasian women, while Shaun Leoney typically trafficked and sold primarily Hispanic women. However, authorities allege that the brothers frequently shared internet advertisements, booked shared hotel rooms for the women they trafficked and sold and often transported the women together. Both Michael and Shaun Leoney frequently used threats of violence to control the women.
Evidence revealed that the brothers were in regular communication with each other regarding the daily operations of the business, including discussing agreements to traffic women for sexual servitude and the exchange of money related to the shared business. The brothers received daily profits from the women under their control.
State Police assigned to the AG’s Office and officers from the Boston Police Department arrested Michael Leoney in December 2012 after executing a search warrant on his residence and on cars registered to him.
This case was handled through AG Healey’s dedicated Human Trafficking Division, which focuses on policy, prevention and criminal prosecutions. Through that Division, the AG’s Office has charged more than 20 individuals since the law went into effect in 2012.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Deb Bercovitch, Chief of the AG’s Human Trafficking Division, and Assistant Attorney General Nancy Rothstein, also of the AG’s Human Trafficking Division, with assistance from Paralegal Stephanie Haven, Nikki Antonucci, Chief of the AG’s Victim Services Division. The investigation was conducted by Massachusetts State Police assigned to the AG’s Office, Sallyann Nelligan, Director of the AG’s Financial Investigations Division, investigators from AG Healey’s Digital Evidence Lab and investigators from the Boston Police Department.