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Woman is 3rd defendant in sex trafficking-case involving Mount Pleasant businessman

Jessica Michelle Mills

Jessica Michelle Mills. Charleston County Sheriff's Office/Provided

A woman was arraigned Oct. 20 on federal charges in connection with the sex-trafficking investigation that ensnared a Mount Pleasant businessman earlier this month.

Jessica Michelle Mills was charged in the U.S. District Court of South Carolina with trafficking a minor for sex and conspiracy to traffic a minor for sex. 

Mills, 29, entered a plea of not guilty to the charges at an Oct. 20 arraignment. A bond hearing was scheduled for Oct. 21. 

Attorney Thad Doughty was appointed by the court to represent Mills. 

Doughty said after the hearing he was new to the case, but he intended to prepare a strong defense for Mills. He said he would argue Oct. 21 that Mills should be released on a bond, with the condition of electronic monitoring, if necessary. 

Mills was arrested the evening of Oct. 19 and was held for the federal government at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center, according to jail records. 

Mills is the third defendant arrested as part of a sex-trafficking investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations. 

Last week, authorities arrested Cederick Riley and Earl Dawson Caldwell IV on charges of child sex trafficking. 

At the time of his arrest, Caldwell, 52, was CEO and president of AP Recovery, a global recovery auditing firm based in Mount Pleasant. The company announced late last week that Caldwell had been ousted from his positions. 

Prosecutors alleged at the men's bond hearings last week that Riley, 34, was the "handler" of a 17-year-old girl who was plied with drugs and coerced through threats into having sex with grown men, including Caldwell. 

The girl first came to the attention of federal authorities in April after she visited a Georgia hospital for appendicitis. While under the effects of anesthesia, the girl revealed she was forced to have sex with 10 to 15 men a day. 

The girl was rescued from a hotel in Yemassee a few days later. She was taken into protective custody, where she is receiving treatment for mental health issues and substance abuse, authorities said. 

Caldwell is accused of having sex with the girl on several occasions in South Carolina, including at a $1.2 million residence in Beaufort County that he called "The Plantation." 

Caldwell also allegedly filmed the girl engaging in sexual acts on three occasions, authorities claim. 

Mills has prior convictions in South Carolina for possession of cocaine and neglect by a legal custodian. 

Reach Steve Garrison at 843-607-1052. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT.

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