Brownie-Making Businessman Punished for Physically and Sexually Abusing Child Workers in Louisiana
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KPEL News) - 39-year-old Darnell Fulton of Pineville, Louisiana, will spend decades behind bars for physically and sexually abusing children who were working for his brownie-baking business.
Forced labor, especially when it involves sexual abuse of children, violence, and mental and physical anguish, is heinous conduct that has no place in our society today. The defendant mercilessly exploited children for his own financial gain and personal gratification, and we will not tolerate it.
Those were the words of Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division as court-released details about the abuse are infuriating. For nearly three years - between June 2016 and May 2019 - prosecutors say Fulton admitted to not only physically and sexually abusing the child workers but to also withholding food from them, degrading them, and intimidating them so they could work for his business and give him the profits. Fulton would force them to travel to as many as 20 to 30 locations a day (Ex.: plazas, car dealerships, law firms, restaurants, and parking lots) to sell the brownies. Prosecutors say the child workers would work seven days a week late into the night with very few breaks, baking or selling the brownies. Also, he would set a daily sales quota for the children, regularly assaulting them if he was not satisfied with their performance or if they didn't meet his projected sales daily quota.
An example of the torture Fulton put the children through: he would require them to stay in a push up or plank position for hours, often whipping them with a belt if they got out of proper form.
Fulton would make the child victims perform sexual acts with him and transported them across state lines to engage in criminal sexual activity with him.
U.S. Attorney Brandon B. Brown for the Western District of Louisiana had this to say about Fulton's "despicable" acts as he "hope(s) that the victims can begin the healing process:"
The defendant’s actions in this case were deplorable and despicable. Forced labor is a form of modern-day slavery and we have a duty to protect the most vulnerable of our society. He had no hesitation in torturing and demoralizing these victims, his own children...This defendant is a danger to society, has no regard for human life, and we believe it is appropriate that he will be spending a long time in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.”
Fulton was sentenced to 35 years in prison for conspiracy to commit forced labor and transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and was also ordered to pay restitution of $979,800 to the victims.
“Mr. Fulton’s guilty plea and the sentencing today should be of great comfort to the victims of his depravity,” said Special Agent in Charge Douglas A. Williams, Jr. of the FBI New Orleans Field Office. “We thank our partners, the Alexandria Police Department, United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana, and DOJ’s Civil Rights Division for their assistance in this case. We will continue the work of rooting out those who seek to target minors for their own bizarre obsessions.”
The case was investigated by the FBI and Alexandria Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Luke Walker for the Western District of Louisiana and Trial Attorney Maryam Zhuravitsky of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit in Washington, DC.
Anyone who has information about human trafficking should report that information to the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information about human trafficking, please visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org. Information on the Justice Department’s efforts to combat human trafficking can be found at www.justice.gov/humantrafficking.