Ex-THP trooper in human smuggling case accused of raping minor i - WSMV News 4

Ex-THP trooper in human smuggling case accused of raping minor in Honduras

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The Channel 4 I-Team has uncovered allegations against Ronald Strickland dating back to 2007. (WSMV) The Channel 4 I-Team has uncovered allegations against Ronald Strickland dating back to 2007. (WSMV)

In his lifetime, Ronald Strickland has gone from patrolling Tennessee’s highways to pleading guilty to a federal crime.

And it’s video uncovered by the Channel 4 I-Team that makes a victims’ advocate hope for a maximum sentence.

“I absolutely think that the judge should come down extremely hard,” said Daniel Tolar, of Rescue 1 Global, a nonprofit that helps victims of human trafficking.

Last month Strickland pleaded guilty to “knowingly and unlawfully transporting and harboring an illegal alien with the United States,” according to federal court documents.

He is accused of smuggling a 22-year-old woman named Rosa from Honduras to Houston, where he picked her up in 2016. Strickland eventually brought Rosa back to his home in Franklin.

The I-Team obtained electronic messages used as evidence—conversations between Strickland and another woman named Carolina.

A federal agent described Carolina’s role during Strickland’s detention hearing in 2016.

“Carolina is a woman that is down in Honduras over the Rotary Club,” said Wayne Dickey, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “It appears she is acting like a pimp with some of the people traveling down to Honduras.”

Messages to Carolina show Strickland had paid $8,000 to get Rosa to the United States.

The feds argued the messages revealed Strickland’s intentions. Strickland wrote he needed to buy several items for Rosa’s arrival including “a bra, panties from Victoria’s Secret” and “sex toys”.

Another time, Strickland graphically referenced sex with Rosa, even comparing her to other women he had been with in Honduras.

“Rubi was the girl before Rosa, and Joanna was the girl before Rubi,” Dickey testified in 2016.

Strickland retired from the Tennessee Highway Patrol in 2002. His daughter testified around that same time, Strickland started making missions trips to Honduras.

The prosecutor said that’s relevant.

“He used that as a position of power and control and wealth to get what he wants there,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynne Ingram said.

Now the I-Team has uncovered other allegations against Strickland dating back to 2007, when Strickland was arrested in Choluteca, Honduras.

He was accused of raping a minor.

The I-Team obtained the results of a forensic medical exam requested by a Honduran prosecutor. The document states the teen was the sister of Strickland’s lover. In 2006, Strickland allegedly forced her to have sex.

According to the report, the girl was an orphan and Strickland gave her gifts such as clothes.

“Afterward, she spoke about it with her sister who convinced her that this man was their benefactor, therefore she not ought to deny him,” the document states in Spanish.

That rape case resurfaced last year during Strickland’s detention hearing.

But Strickland’s attorney, Ed Yarbrough, revealed a key detail.

“Were you aware that the case was tried and Mr. Strickland was found not guilty?” Yarbrough asked Dickey in court.

“No, I’m not aware of that,” Dickey said.

Yet in text messages to the I-Team Yarbrough stated the rape case was dismissed. Despite repeated questions, Yarbrough would not explain why or clarify.

Tolar said the rape case is relevant to the smuggling case and should be brought up at sentencing.

“Humanity states that we should not take advantage of someone else just because we can or just because we are American or just because maybe we were an officer or a trooper or whatever,” Tolar said. “I don’t think those should play into consideration of downplaying what he did.”

Rosa was initially taken into federal custody because of her immigration status.

A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not comment on whether she has been deported.

Strickland’s attorney declined our requests for an interview and said he had no comment on this story.

Strickland is not in jail, but is under the supervision of the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Office. His sentencing hearing is set for October. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine amounting to $250,000.

Copyright 2017 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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