A Columbia man and former U.S. Marine will serve more than four years in prison for human trafficking, prostitution and drug offenses, an Anne Arundel County judge ruled Monday.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Morris sentenced Saeed Ebrahimnejad, 36, to 25 years in prison and suspended all but six years for financially profiting off a woman who said she was forced into prostitution. Ebrahimnejad was arrested in a sting operation in September 2019 when an undercover Anne Arundel County police officer arranged a meeting with the woman at a hotel in Linthicum.
The 20 months Ebrahimnejad was held in jail before trial will count toward his sentence. He was sentenced a concurrent year in prison for his drug possession and five years probation.
Ebrahimnejad was tasked with controlling the woman and her business for a month period before undercover police busted her for prostitution. The woman, who was driven to Maryland from North Carolina, told police she was forced to continue sex work, beaten and burned with cigarettes if she didn’t follow orders and given drugs to keep her awake and working.
It’s estimated that Ebrahimnejad kept all of the approximately $30,000 he profited from the woman’s sex work.
Police arrested Ebrahimnejad and Benjamin Wagner on the same day as the sting when they returned to the hotel where the woman was kept. Ebrahimnejad had five vials of crack cocaine on him during the arrest. Wagner was arrested with three vials of crack cocaine on him. The woman told police Wagner’s role was to prevent her from leaving and protect her from aggressive Johns. She said he watched but didn’t help when Ebrahimnejad abused her.
Wagner pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor prostitution offense in January after months in jail waiting for his trial that was postponed twice during the coronavirus pandemic. Judge Stacy McCormack suspended all but 18 months of his 10-year sentence.
State prosecutors dropped assault and rape charges against Ebrahimnejad after they lost contact with the woman. He pleaded not guilty to possessing crack cocaine and financially benefitting from misdemeanor prostitution and felony human trafficking. Morris found him guilty of the three charges on May 4.
“This is one of the most serious crimes we have,” said assistant state’s attorney Colleen McGuinn who sought a 15-year sentence. “She was literally being sold. This is a human being he was around. She continued to be abused again and again.”
Ebrahimnejad, who doesn’t have a criminal record, apologized to Morris before she handed down a sentence Monday. He credited his actions to his crack cocaine addiction he said he fell into after serving five years in the marines.
“I’m very sorry for my involvement for what was really a chase for drugs,” Ebrahimnejad said. “I did stupid things but I never did anything to hurt anyone.”
Morris emphasized the gravity of Ebrahimnejad’s crimes while acknowledging his clean record and his denial that he didn’t hurt the woman physically. But Morris said she couldn’t shake the image of the woman’s physical abuse that included a cigarette burn on her neck.
“This is a human being. And benefitting financially off another human is hurting her,” Morris said.