Recruiting teens for prostitution nets High River woman 2-year sentence

A prostitution case involving teen girls wrapped up at the courthouse in Okotoks, Alta., on Thursday with a two-year prison sentence for a 24-year-old woman.

Samantha Pedersen, 24, pleaded guilty under Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act

Defence lawyer Stephen Bitzer says his client has also been a victim in her life. (CBC)

A prostitution case involving teen girls wrapped up at the courthouse in Okotoks, Alta., on Thursday with a two-year prison sentence for a 24-year-old woman.

Samantha Pedersen of High River pleaded guilty to one charge under the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act.

She was originally charged last fall with multiple prostitution and human trafficking-related offences after an RCMP investigation suggested several local teen girls were recruited on social media and then exploited for criminal purposes.

In Okotoks provincial court on Thursday, Pedersen told Judge Les Grieve that she is sorry and it will never happen again.

According to a joint submission from Crown lawyer Brian Holtby and defence lawyer Stephen Bitzer, Pedersen was advertising her own services on dating websites and exchanging sex for alcohol and drugs.

And from January to October 2016, she encouraged four 16-year-old girls to engage in prostitution.

"She took them to parties where they would have opportunities to engage in prostitution," Holtby said. 

Pedersen supplied the teens with alcohol and drugs and advised them on how to solicit clients on the internet, court heard.

"What she did was wrong, by involving four young girls in her lifestyle and potentially leading them down the same sad path that she has gone down."

Online advice

Court also heard details about Pedersen's own involvement in prostitution, which started at age 14.

She is cognitively disabled, and was using alcohol and drugs, including cocaine and meth, Bitzer said.

"She [Pedersen], too, has been a victim in her life," he said.

Lawyers on both sides suggested the Criminal Code charges — which carried a possible five-year sentence — be withdrawn and that Pedersen serve two years in prison for pleading guilty to a charge under the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act. 

The judge agreed.

Police said last year that the four victims were being helped by Child and Family Services and Foothills Victim Services.