A Black Lives Matter activist who operates a social justice charity was arrested last month on charges of sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl.
Charles Wade co-founded Operation Help or Hush in the aftermath of the August 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The group claims it helps raise funds for the needy and provide food and shelter for activists.
But according to a police report obtained by TheDC, the 33-year-old Wade was raising money in more explicit ways.
He was arrested on April 25 at a motel where he resided in College Park, Md. Police say he was using the motel room to pimp a 17-year-old girl.
He’s charged with seven counts, including felonies for human trafficking. The charges carry sentences of up to 25 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Wade posted $25,000 bond and left jail on April 27.Wade denied the allegations in an email to The Daily Caller.
Formerly a stylist for Solange Knowles, the sister of Beyonce, Wade has been featured in numerous news articles about the Black Lives Matter movement. He was also invited by the White House earlier this week to a movie screening with other Black Lives Matter activists. Wade says he did not attend the function, which was on Tuesday.
Last year, a team of Washington Post reporters, including Pulitzer Prize-winner Wesley Lowery, included Wade in a profile of Black Lives Matter activists who protested after the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson.
The Post piece referred to questions about Wade’s fundraising activities — which he and his group conduct mostly through Twitter — but offered a largely glowing portrayal of the activist.
The paper also covered him in December 2014 after he helped model Chrissy Teigen and singer John Legend donate to activists protesting Eric Garner’s death in New York City.
According to the police report, an undercover officer with the vice intelligence unit responded to an ad on backpage.com, a website frequently used by sex traffickers and prostitutes.
“Holla at me. Quick stay specials tonight and tomorrow. Independent. Fun and sexy. Text me to set up an appointment???????” reads the ad, which listed the age of the poster as 23.
The undercover detective contacted the poster to set up a meeting. The respondent informed him that the cost of services would be $100 for a half-hour and provided an address, which turned out to be a Howard Johnson Inn in College Park. A room number was also provided.
When the undercover john arrived, a white female wearing only a towel answered the door and let him inside the room. After she attempted to initiate contact with the detective he informed her he was a police officer, and she ran out of the room.
“Members of the Vice Intelligence Unit described a male that was watching the Undercover Detective as he entered [room 412],” the report reads.
Investigators reported that the teenager, who gave her age as 17, said that Wade was her “manager.” She called him “CJ.”
Wade, who used a passport to rent the Howard Johnson Inn room, was arrested and charged with sex trafficking. Police recovered three cell phones from him.
The alleged victim told investigators that Wade knew she was a minor. She said that he told her he was not concerned about her age because “you only have 5 months left until you’re 18 so I’m not worried.”
She also told investigators that she provided all the money she was paid to Wade.
In response to TheDC’s request for comment, Wade claimed that a tenant at a temporary housing facility he was running as part of his charity “was involved in activities” that he did not know about.
“As this is a legal matter, I’m not going into serious detail with you,” he said.
He did claim, however, that he was unfairly arrested because he was “too trusting.”
“Someone that we had just started temporarily housing was involved in activities in the temporary housing we obtained for them outside of my knowledge that caused me to be arrested after they were as the person who booked, signed for, provided ID for, and paid for the room,” he said.
Despite those claims, the police report suggests that there is evidence that Wade was the person who communicated with the undercover detective by text message.
“It was revealed that the Undercover Detective was texting the Defendant when he responded to the backpage ad. When there were clients/johns, the Defendant would leave the room,” the document reads. It is unclear if that information came from the alleged victim or through some other means.
Wade issued a statement on Twitter after being contacted by TheDC in which he blamed conservative “trolls” for focusing on the case. He also said “I am confident that I will be cleared of the charges I am currently facing.”
“I was forced to make this statement before I was ready to because of ongoing efforts by Twitter ‘trolls’ to stop my work and the work of my organization,” he wrote.
“For the past two to three days, ‘trolls’ have been actively baiting conservative news outlets to report on my arrest, amongst other vindictive things that they are actively working on.”
Wade also stated that the recent arrest is the second time he has been arrested after “helping someone else.” He did not provide details of the case, but a review of criminal databases shows he was charged with 3rd degree grand theft in Miami in January. Wade says he was not convicted in the case nor did he take a plea deal. Records show that the case was closed in February.
Wade was also arrested in August 2014 in Travis County, Tex. and charged with making false statements.
Wade’s court date has been set for June 3.
Update: After this article was published, TheDC obtained new information about Wade’s January grand theft case showing that the charges against him were not merely dropped, as he claimed. Records show that on April 29, two days after he was released from jail following the prostitution arrest, Wade agreed to enter a deferred prosecution program. In such cases, defendants typically agree to perform community service and stay out of trouble in exchange for an eventual dismissal of charges.