Henrico pimp speaks out about the business of prostitution - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Henrico pimp speaks out about the business of prostitution

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HENRICO, VA (WWBT) -

Prostitutes, pimps and johns: all words associated with a lifestyle that is completely illegal but sells well in the Richmond Metro area. Some say it's modern day slavery.   

One Henrico pimp, now serving time, provided NBC12 with an in-depth look at why he does what he does.

"I've had girls, all types of females be like, 'I want you to be my pimp!'" said William James. "People choose this life as a means to survive."

Over a decade, James said he's had at least ten women work for him as prostitutes.

"They love it," he said.  "It's the allure of fast money. That's what they're in it for."

James said he made money in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and D.C.  But right now, he's serving a nine-year sentence for a number of prostitution charges in Henrico.  It's one of the toughest sentences Henrico has imposed in years.

According to prosecutors, a Tidewater woman said James controlled her every move and kept all the money as she sold her body. They traveled from southeast Virginia.  Back in July, she escaped one of his beatings at a hotel in Henrico's West End and got help.  James pleaded no contest but said he disagreed with what happened in court.

"I agreed that they actually have evidence that can get me convicted, but I still maintain my innocence on those charges," he said.

But, he agreed to talk about his life as a pimp in other parts of Virginia.

"I have love for all females," he said. "I try to show that love. Every female needs guidance. They need to know, they need direction. Without guidance, they wouldn't know what they're doing most of the time."

James says he calls the women his girlfriends, lets them keep 60 percent of the profits they make, and he has not worked with anyone underage.

"I look down on stuff like that," he said. "Every female I ever dealt with they're old enough to make their own conscious decision that, 'I want to do this.'" James said. "They tell me, ‘This is what I'm doing, this is what I want to do,' And then we come to an agreement of this is how we're going to proceed with this business."

For many in the sex trade, the Richmond Metro area is a good place to make a profit. And they're working out of Henrico hotels, especially in the West End.

Henrico County surpasses any other county and the city of Richmond in the number of charges filed against pimps and madams.  But police and prosecutors say that's because it's become a big focus for the departments.  Stings are held regularly, catching johns, prostitutes, pimps and madams.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Feinmel disagrees with James' view of prostitution.

"For whatever reason, the professional dynamic of our area, the number of professionals who travel in and out of the area provide more money than other cities do," said Feinmel. "There are a vast number of young ladies being victimized, completely abused, emotionally manipulated by these individuals," he added.

Feinmel prosecuted the case against James, and has also taken on some of the county's most serious sex trade investigations. He said James and other men like him are 'traveling pimps' meaning they follow the I-95 corridor from city to city.  He equated prostitution and pimping with modern day slavery, and it's happening every day.

"The pimp is taking all of the money, giving them a little bit of drugs, giving them a little bit of fast food, keeping them cooped up in a hotel, and this is going on for weeks," Feinmel said. "These pimps are good at what they do, they're very good at manipulating."

The only thing both sides will agree on is that these women end up with this lifestyle out of desperation. Many times they are dealing with an addiction, have hit their lowest point financially and almost all have been abused.

"I think their lives might already be ruined before embarking on doing this type of lifestyle," said Feinmel.

Along with the prostitution and the beating, James was also charged with leading police on a high-speed chase through Henrico.

At 5 p.m. on Thursday, the second part of NBC12's investigation looks at the men who are caught paying for sex. In Henrico, they are now being sent to a classroom.

James claimed the women he employed approached him, though that's not often the case. If you know anyone who may be a human trafficking victim, you can get them help through these organizations:

The Gray Haven Project

Richmond Justice Initiative

Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services- Human Trafficking

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