The 16-year-old runaway had just escaped from an abusive pimp in California and was looking for protection. She thought she found it in Erik Shamsud-din, but it came at an horrible price.
The woman, now 23, testified in a federal courtroom Wednesday about how the convicted sex trafficker preyed on her, taking her under his wing at first before prostituting her in Chicago and across the country and taking all the money she earned to keep her in check.
“I just don’t think what he did was right,” she said as she broke into sobs and buried her face in her hands. “It’s disgusting to do that to a little kid.”
Moments later, a federal judge sentenced Shamsud-din, 46, to 15 years in prison for crossing state lines and engaging in prostitution with the minor and two other victims, including a woman who accused him of severely beating her with the handle of a golf club as discipline.
Prosecutors said Shamsud-din advertised the women on Craigslist and other online sites as they traveled through California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas for several months in 2006 before ending up in Illinois.
Shamsud-din, who pleaded guilty in May in federal court in Chicago, also faced federal sex trafficking charges in his native Oregon, but those charges will be dropped as part of his plea deal with prosecutors.
In 1991, Shamsud-din was convicted of rape, kidnapping and sex trafficking of minors in Oregon and served more than eight years in prison, court records show.
In court Wednesday, Shamsud-din apologized to his victims during a rambling, 20-minute statement to U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve that veered from tearful remorse to touting his work as a volunteer coach for a youth football team.
“I am embarrassed to be known as a person who did these things,” he said, at one point glancing back at the 23-year-old victim as she dabbed at her eyes in the courtroom gallery. “I pray that the scars I have caused on these women will one day recede into as small a place as possible.”
In her testimony, the woman painted a harrowing account of her teen years, which included being placed in a Minnesota foster home when her mother went to prison and running away to California with a man who promised to be her boyfriend but instead forced her into prostitution.