A Lake County judge reluctantly sentenced a Hammond man to time served Monday as part of a plea deal after admitting he used an app to trick a blind woman into prostitution.
Stefon Collins, 25, pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution, a Level 5 felony, according to a plea agreement filed May 2.
Defense attorney Adrian Guzman told Judge Salvador Vasquez that Collins was remorseful and had no criminal history. The deal was “reasonable” because there were also evidentiary issues and the woman was reluctant to take part in the case, he said.
Vasquez called the allegations “disturbing to say the least”, questioning why he should accept a “bare minimum” sentence.
Assistant District Attorney Tara Villarreal said the woman had the mental capacity of a 14-year-old and moved from the state where a relative is now caring for her.
While Collins was also legally blind, he had sight in one eye, Villarreal said. The woman, on the other hand, had to use a wall as a barrier in her apartment.
She was in pain and had regressed, according to relatives, the prosecutor said. She was “extremely terrified” and “didn’t want to deal with” the case anymore, Villarreal said.
“But for the prosecution statement, I would reject the plea,” Vasquez said.
The deal was for one year of service with the Indiana Department of Corrections. With 75% required to be served, Collins has already spent about a year in prison, which was deducted from the sentence.
Collins declined to speak in court on Monday before his sentencing.
Authorities charged him with using the dating app “Tagged” to lure the woman, a friend, into prostitution, according to a criminal affidavit.
The woman told police that after moving in with Collins a year earlier, he created an account on the dating app ‘Tagged’ where he would charge $50 each for men to have sex with her, indicates the affidavit. He told her to go with men “because he wanted her to make friends,” he said.
She repeatedly said no to the men, the probable cause affidavit states. A man tried to have sex with her even after she rebuffed his advances. Collins raped her “because he wouldn’t take no for an answer”, according to the charges.
The woman said she saw up to five men a day, according to the charges. She overheard Collins haggling with a man who offered her $40 when he wanted $50, he said.
The men who paid Collins took the woman to Hammond, Gary and Calumet City, Illinois, for sex, she told police. Some kept her overnight and forced her to have sex many times.
He was initially charged with promoting human sex trafficking and promoting prostitution.