A Billings man has been sentenced to seven years in prison for attempting to purchase two women to use as sex slaves in what he called a stone dungeon in the basement of his residence.
Steven Currence, 65, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Arizona to one count of attempted sex trafficking as part of a plea agreement with the U.S. District Attorney's office, The Billings Gazette reported. He was sentenced on Sept. 10.
The FBI said the sting that led to the arrests and convictions of Currence and three other men began after agents were tipped off to a website advertising the sale of people from Malaysia. That website was a sham, but agents determined there must be a market, so they set up a website advertising the auction of women between the ages of 18 and 26.
"Definitely interested," Currence wrote in response to the ad. "Have personal stone dungeon and many years' experience as trainer/owner."
Currence eventually met with an undercover FBI agent in Billings and showed the man his dungeon which included whips, chains and restraint devices. He told the agent he intended to buy two slaves, one to be chained to his bed and the other to be kept in the basement.
"These slaves will never leave," Currence told agents, according to court records. "I'm not looking for love; they're just going to be here and they are going to be serving."
Currence sold ranch property near Roundup for just over $13,000 and planned to use $10,000 of that to buy two women, prosecutors said.
Currence traveled to Phoenix in May 2014, with shackles, to procure the women and was arrested at a warehouse that was purportedly used to house the women.
George Steuer, a supervisory special agent with the FBI in Phoenix, rejected arguments that the defendants were entrapped.
All of the applicants were repeatedly reminded that their actions were against the law and were given several opportunities to walk away, Steuer told The Arizona Republic.
FBI spokesman Kurt Remus said more than 100 people initially responded to the ad, but didn't follow through.
At his sentence, Currence said he was "mortified" at his behavior.
"I know deep in my heart that I would never ever hold someone against their will or try to force someone to do something through threat or force," he said.
Currence's defense attorney, George Klink, reminded the court it took agents nine months to get Currence to follow through and, at one point, Currence told the agents to sell the victims to another buyer if they had the opportunity, the newspaper reported.
U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell also ordered Currence to forfeit the proceeds of the sale of ranch property.
Edward Stevens, 67, of Mesa, Arizona and Edward Kandl, 60, of Tucson, Arizona, were also sentenced to seven years for attempting to engage in trafficking. A 52-year-old California man, Charles Bunnell, was sentenced to nine years in prison.