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Sex trafficker who lured teenage girls into prostitution pleads guilty

Derek Harris, 23, pleaded guilty to sex trafficking with victims as young as 14.

A Buffalo man accused of luring girls as young 14 into prostitution pleaded guilty Tuesday to a sex trafficking charge and two counts of promoting prostitution.

Derek Harris, 23, of Buffalo used Internet sites to find customers for the sex trafficking operation he ran out of the Boulevard Inn Motel on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst. Prosecutors said Harris set up the sexual encounters online and by cellphone and then collected the money from his female victims, who ranged in age from 14 to 19 years old.

Harris was scheduled to go to trial later this week on six felony charges in connection with the case, and Assistant District Attorney Ryan Haggerty previously said there was an “incredible amount” of evidence against him.

The young victims came forward with information, Haggerty said, and prosecutors also were able to obtain statements from numerous patrons of Harris’s illegal operation.

District Attorney John J. Flynn called sex trafficking with young women and children a scourge on the community.

“These criminals prey on the vulnerabilities of their victims – whether it’s age, or addiction, or poverty — and exploit these vulnerabilities for their own financial benefit,” Flynn said in a statement.

He praised the work of the Amherst Police Department and the Human Trafficking Task Force in the case.

Harris had been arrested before, in 2013, when he was 18, on charges of child sexual abuse after allegedly recording himself having sex with a 15-year-old and posting the images online.

Now he faces up to 25 years in prison when sentenced by Justice Christopher J. Burns on Nov. 28.

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