MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A Durham man will spend more than 20 years in federal prison after forcing minors into prostitution in Myrtle Beach, according to an announcement Thursday morning from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Carolina.

Johnny Richardo Thomas, also known as “Rico” or “Lulu,” received the sentence after pleading guilty to coercing minors to engage into prostitution. The crimes happened in the Myrtle Beach area, along with other places, according to the announcement.

He knew that two victims were minors, and took pictures of them to make online ads, according to the announcement. He threatened to cut off teens’ toes if they didn’t have sex.

A minor told the court that she has night terrors and feels “disgusting, used, worthless, [and] empty,” according to the announcement.

An investigation by the Myrtle Beach Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations uncovered that in March 2019 he took a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old from North Carolina to Myrtle Beach.

Mills also participated in many of the sexual encounters, and Thomas engaged in sexual acts with one of the minors on at least two occasions, court documents say.

Court records also reflect that Mills told one of the minors that if the minor did what she was told, Thomas would not hurt her.

According to the complaint, Thomas told one of the minors numerous times that if she did not perform commercial sex acts, he would sell her to someone worse who would chain her up to a bed, shoot her full of heroin, and do bad things to her such as slice off her toes and body parts. 

Becca Mills (Source: JRLDC)

“Crimes against children are vile, indefensible, and can create lifelong victims,” U.S. Attorney Corey F. Ellis said in the announcement. “We are fortunate that our federal, state, and local partners share our commitment to thoroughly investigate these cases, provide services to the affected victims, and prosecute those who engage in this reprehensible conduct. These efforts are clear in this case, and are the reason that the Defendant – who victimized two minor children – will spend decades in prison and the rest of his life being monitored by the Court.”

Following 262 months in prison, he will be under lifetime court-ordered supervision. He will also have to pay restitution to the victims.

If he was convicted in court, he would have faced a maximum of life in prison.

He was previously convicted for breaking and entering, being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession with the intent to distribute narcotics, assault on a government official and resisting arrest, according to the announcement.

A co-defendant, 25-year-old Becca Mills, of Whispering Pines, North Carolina, has pleaded guilty to concealing the crimes from police. She has not been sentenced.