Former THP trooper sentenced in human trafficking case

Ronald Strickland (WSMV file photo)

A former THP trooper was sentenced to 30 months in prison today for his role in smuggling a Honduran woman into the United States.

Ronald Strickland, 70, previously pleaded guilty to “knowingly and unlawfully transporting and harboring an illegal alien with the United States,” according to federal court documents.

Strickland's sentence also includes a $75,000 fine and three years supervised release. He was not taken into custody after the hearing. Instead, he will be allowed to turn himself in at a later date.

Strickland 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.

Records state Strickland paid roughly $8,000 to transport Rosa into the U.S.

Prosecutors argued messages sent by Strickland revealed his 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.

Strickland addressed the court today during his sentencing hearing. He said he first started traveling to Honduras for missionary work following Hurricane Mitch, but admitted his more recent trips were "not entirely charitable."

Strickland said he was wrong for transporting Rosa and harboring her in the United States, but maintained he did nothing wrong or inappropriate in Honduras.

The judge described the offense as "disturbing" and "troubling."

"You're a predator," said U.S. District Judge Sean Cox. "A sexual predator."

Judge Cox said Strickland specifically preyed on young girls in a poor region.

"You give money and gifts so they have sex with you," Judge Cox told the defendant.

The judge said he refused to give Strickland special treatment because he worked in law enforcement or served in the military.

Prosecutors previously said Strickland had relationships with six different women while in Honduras, paying them for sex.

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

Agents have painted a picture of the kind of journey Rosa endured to reach the United States. Court documents state Rosa fell from a train trying to run away from gangs and was abandoned by her coyotes in the desert, where she was lost for two days without adequate food or water.

Documents state other women in Rosa's group were molested by armed smugglers.

Homeland Security Investigations Assistant Special Agent In Charge Robert Hammer highlighted the importance of this case in combating human trafficking.

"As the father of a young daughter, I just can't imagine my daughter being put in the same position, a foreign country without any contact," said Hammer.

The I-Team previously uncovered other allegations against Strickland dating back to 2007, when Strickland was arrested in Choluteca, Honduras and charged with the rape of 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. The case was ultimately dismissed.

However a judge issued an opinion this week stating testimony from a Honduran investigator would not be factored into the sentencing.

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